On the face of it, I find the call by British MPs for the appointment of an Identity Fraud Tsar a very good thing. Under the proposals of the All Party Group on Identity Fraud this new role would provide a point of coordination between the Government, police and private sector. Given the pervasiveness of this type of crime it is good to see our legislators being – comparatively – on the ball. I am also glad to see them highlighting, as I have done previously, the great potential risk that people put themselves in by divulging all sorts of personal details on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace (surely a candy store for any online fraudster).
This report follows the recent recommendations by the House of Lords Science & Technology Select Committee, which called for various overdue measures to tackle the broader issue of e-crime. As I noted previously, this was a well considered work that has made many positive contributions. Again, therefore, plaudits to our parliamentarians for recognising the importance of these issues.
However, the job of ID Fraud Tsar or any other measure to tackle e-crime is of little value if it is poorly resourced. The Home Office says it has “done much” to combat identity fraud, including tougher criminal penalties, better co-ordination in prosecuting fraudsters, more powers to share data about frauds and public awareness campaigns. However, this story from ComputerWeekly today suggests the good work of the Lords and Commons is falling on deaf ears at HM Treasury, which hold the all-important purse strings. In its latest Comprehensive Spending Review the government has promised to throw £11 million – not much, frankly – at three fraud-fighting bodies, but has made no apparent provision to do anything about e-crime.
Let us hope, therefore, that amid the many millions generously directed into health and other public services, some may be found for this vital area. If not, any newly appointed Tsar will end up a figurehead unable to do very much at all.