'Major deficiencies' in how police respond to fraud - IPCA

November 15, 2022

There are “major deficiencies” in the way police have been responding to fraud complaints, the police watchdog has found.

A report released by the IPCA ,following an investigation, said that police have failed to properly respond to cases of fraud, which has perpetuated the issue and caused damage to victims.

The report states that police undermine those suffering from fraud by regarding complaints as civil disputes and minor offences.

It comes after a number of complaints about police handling of fraud claims.

"The authority has found that the police response to fraud falls well short of victims’ expectations and is failing to meet the challenges that the present fraud landscape poses ”, said authority chairperson Judge Colin Doherty.

“Frauds are too often being regarded as civil disputes or minor offences. They are not receiving the priority they deserve, and the needs of victims are too often not being met.”

Financial fraud (file image).

It said that fraud is being looked at in the wrong way by police as more and more Kiwis become victims of deception crimes.

The IPCA said that Kiwis are victims of fraud more than any other crime.

They also said that as the prevalence of cyber-enabled fraud has increased the complexity and sophistication of the crime and police have failed to see this.

The report said that there was an inadequate process for receiving, categorising and prioritising fraud investigations within and between districts.

It stated that there are “poor and inconsistent” investigations, a lack of victim focus and inadequate expertise and training.

The report highlighted a series of complaints made to the IPCA which showed that police failed to handle a number of cases in a timely manner or referred to the alleged crimes as civil disputes.

“Fraud often has a devastating and enduring impact on people’s lives. It is time for New Zealand police to treat this crime type with the seriousness it deserves,” said Doherty.

“It is clear to us that police need a fundamental overhaul of their processes for recording and investigating fraud,” said Judge Doherty. “We have made a number of proposals for change to that end.”

It wants them to better understand and monitor the extent of fraud and implement better training for front-counter staff who receive, identify and report fraud.

They also want to see the establishment of dedicated regional fraud units with a national manager to properly investigate fraud complaints as well as the implementation of a nationally consistent recording and investigation process.

Another suggestion was to enhance support for victims of fraud so that they don't feel victimised.

The IPCA said that while better police responses are a start, they won't be enough. They want to see a national overhaul of how police respond to fraud.

Police respond

The police have acknowledged the report and have welcomed it as an opportunity to reduce the prevalence of fraud.

A police officer (file image).

“We will consider the recommendations in the IPCA report alongside the findings of the internal review on fraud police undertook last year to identify opportunities for improvement,” a spokesperson said

“The Minister of Police has sought joint advice from police and the Serious Fraud Office on how the system response to fraud might be improved.”

They said that prevention methods should be primary when assessing fraud and will require increased awareness to make offending harder.

Police also acknowledged that they could be doing more to meet the needs of victims and are working to increase their visibility and process around fraud.

“Police assess complaints against certain criteria to help prioritise offences for investigation, which includes targeting repeat offenders and cases with vulnerable victims.

“This helps us target our efforts on the areas that will do the most to reduce the harm fraud causes in our communities, as we aim to maintain high service levels to communities across the country,” they said.


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