Online fraud poses a significant challenge to society, as millions of victims are affected by this offense every year. Statistics about the rate of online fraud offenses that occur each year is not accurate. However, Statistic Canada showed that fraud (including online fraud) has been on the rise in the last decade, going up to 58%. The Canadian Antifraud Centre estimates that only 5% of victims report fraud to them.
Unlike other offenses, victims of fraud can report to a broad range of agencies. In Canada, victims can choose to report to the police but also to financial institutions and several government agencies such as the Canadian Antifraud Centre.
Several issues, such as a general lack of resources, the few specialists dedicated to fraud, and the complex nature of reporting online fraud cases, can hamper the policing of fraud. As well, police officer’s perceptions of online fraud and their ability to respond play a major role in the policing of online fraud. Police officers who view online frauds similar to offline fraud may feel more prepared to respond to it as they perceive themselves to have the necessary skills based on their experiences with fraud cases. Moreover, officers who feel that technology has a great impact on crime and policing, in general, may understand the importance of responding to online crime.
Officer’s professional training and their experiences may also shape their feelings of preparedness toward online fraud. Their skills and comfort with technology may influence their opinions toward online fraud, as they would be more aware of the potential risks for victimization and theft.
To assess constables’ and sergeants’ perceptions of their preparedness to respond to online fraud, the authors surveyed constables from all 45 police agencies across England and Wales.
Survey results indicated that just under half (42%) of respondents agreed they felt prepared to deal with online fraud. Conversely, more than half (57%) were either neutral (19%) or disagreed about being prepared (38%).
Also, the respondents agreed that agencies having posted information on policies and procedures regarding how they were to respond to online incidents and crime contributed greatly to the increased perceived level of preparedness. Constables and sergeants who view online crimes as similar to traditional crimes felt better prepared as they were able to use their existing knowledge, skills, and experience to respond to online fraud. Constables and sergeants with higher comfort with computers and who had received previous training of any kind related to online incidents felt better prepared. Finally, constables and sergeants who had difficulty relating to victims of online incidents in previous experiences felt less prepared to respond to future online incidents.
This study demonstrated the value of creating, implementing, and reinforcing policies and procedures related to online incidents and crime. This study highlights the need for police administration to improve their officers’ preparedness to respond to online fraud.