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Long arm of the law now out to catch the 'phishers'.

Byline: By Andrew Manners

The new Fraud Act is the culmination of more than 30 years of debate over fraud reform. The existing law has been a confusing and outdated hotchpotch of statutes and common law such as the offence of conspiracy to defraud.

Defendants were often charged with as many offences as possible under the Theft Acts or conspiracy to defraud. Such difficulties have caused the collapse in recent years of high-profile cases, at an esti- mated cost to taxpayers of pounds 60m.

The latest Fraud Act incorporates fraudulent acts committed specifically by the use of technology - such as identity theft - which is the fastest growing type of fraud in the UK, costing an estimated pounds 1.7bn a year.

The new Act introduces a new general offence of fraud which can be committed in three ways:

By a false representation;

By failing to disclose information;

By abuse of position.

All three types require the conduct to have been carried out 'dishonestly'.

Fraud by false representation covers chip and pin fraud where a person fraudulently makes a representation to a machine and a response can be produced without any need for human involvement.

Fraud by failing to disclose information would occur if a person intentionally failed to disclose information relating to his heart condition when making an application for life insurance.

Fraud by abuse of position will apply to situations where the defendant has been placed in a privileged position where he is expected to safeguard another's financial interests.

For example, a carer who uses their position of trust to line his or her own pockets dishonestly.

Two further new offences have been created as part of the Act, targeted directly at technology - 'obtaining services dishonestly' and 'possessing, making and supplying articles for use in frauds'.

The offence of 'obtaining services dishonestly' could be used, for example, where personal data is stored legitimately on the internet and a person dishonestly accesses that information by, for example, using false credit card details.

The new fraud law also covers 'phishing' which involves the sending of an email to an individual falsely representing that the email has been sent by that individual's bank. The recipient is asked to click on to a fake website, thus enabling the 'phisher' to access password details for future fraud.

Under the new Act, you could be prosecuted remarkably early - perhaps for drafting and saving (without sending) a fraudulent 'phishing' email.

According to the Financial Services Authority, the UK has seen an 8,000% increase in fake internet banking scams in the past two years.

The latest Home Office figures estimate the cost of fraud to the UK economy at pounds 14bn a year.

This new Act has been heralded as equipping investigators with the necessary tools to keep pace with these ever more ingenious techno criminals.

The challenge will be for the criminal law to keep pace with the criminal.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 24, 2007
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