Fraud investigation work overhauled
New arrangements have come into effect for investigating fraud in Northern Ireland.
The UK-wide reporting centre Action Fraud will now handle the majority of reports of the crime in the region.
Action Fraud receives fraud and cyber-crime reports and then passes them to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) at the City of London Police, which is the country's policing lead for fraud.
The NFIB assesses the report and will then send information on to the PSNI if there is "actionable intelligence or viable lines of enquiry" available for it to pursue.
The PSNI said people in Northern Ireland should now only contact it directly about fraud in certain specific circumstances, namely if the crime is in progress or has taken place in the last 24 hours or if the alleged perpetrator is known to them.
In the last financial year, a total of 1,896 frauds were reported to PSNI.
In conjunction with the City of London Police, Action Fraud's service for victims of fraud and cyber crim e was rolled out to all police forces in England and Wales in April 2013.
Since it started more than one million reports have been made and in the last year 388,438 reports of fraud and cyber crime were submitted by both members of the public and businesses.
The PSNI said cases referred to the NFIB would be analysed along with additional information from government departments, financial institutions and other large organisations.
It said this "central collection point" for crime reports enabled a much clearer national picture on the main issues and allowed links to be established between seemingly unrelated incidents.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable for Crime Operations, Will Kerr, said: "Action Fraud is now the primary contact point for reporting fraud and cyber crime. We believe the service offered by Action Fraud is the best way of dealing with this important issue, both in terms of investigating such crime and building up a clearer understanding of fraud and fraudsters.
"It makes sense to join this national reporting service which will help to free up finite police resources to focus on those fraud investigations with viable lines of enquiry."
Commander Steve Head, Police National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime, who has helped the PSNI join Action Fraud, said: "Action Fraud has brought fraud and cyber reporting into one place, revolutionising the way this type of crime is recorded in England and Wales. This in turn allows the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to effectively assess the nature and scale of the threat posed to people and businesses in these areas and proactively take steps to help police forces identify and pursue significant offenders operating across the UK and overseas.
"PSNI joining Action Fraud will see Northern Ireland's residents and businesses feed into this process, meaning the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau can provide the force with a meaningful picture of the economic crime issues in its area ,allowing it to better protect its communities and pursue fraudsters operating within the locality."
Deputy head of Action Fraud Steve Proffitt said the addition of the PSNI to its team was an "excellent" development.
"We acknowledge that fraud and cyber crime are a growing problem and we encourage people to report to the service so that we can have a clear picture of the current scale of fraud and the threat which it poses," he said.
"If frauds go unreported, it allows fraudsters to operate under the radar and commit crime with no consequence.
"Working with police forces, Action Fraud helps the counter fraud community to shine a light on this kind of criminality and PSNI involvement will help us further enhance the service.
"From now on fraud reports from Northern Ireland will be fed directly into Action Fraud and from there given to the NFIB, where they will be analysed and used to pinpoint repeat and significant offenders and lead police officers directly to the fraudster's front door. The reports will also help shape the wider intelligence picture that is identifying emerging threats and making the UK more resistant to the threat posed by fraud."