Certain types of white-collar crime have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to evidence from a range of sources.
Financial fraud against UK bank customers increased by two-thirds in the first half of 2020, while HMRC reported a 74% increase in emails related to tax fraud in the same period. Action Fraud reported a big rise in the number of fraud reports specifically linked to coronavirus, such as emails claiming to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO) asking victims to click on a link that takes them to a page asking for personal details.
There has also been a rise in new types of fraud connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as furlough fraud, where companies or individuals fraudulently claim against the UK government’s coronavirus support scheme for businesses and the self-employed.
This follows on from a trend of increasing reports of fraud in recent years that pre-dates the current coronavirus situation.
How have police and other law enforcement agencies responded to the growth in fraud and white-collar crime?
In order to combat recent rises in fraud and other types of white collar crime, UK police are increasingly working with other crime fighting agencies, including Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, to crack down on white collar criminals.
Police and other agencies also have a range of new powers introduced in the last few years at their disposal, including Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs), Account Freezing Orders and Forfeiture Orders. These allow the authorities to target the money made by suspected criminals without necessarily needing to prove that a crime has occurred.
For those suspected of committing fraud or another white-collar crime, this increased cooperation between agencies could raise the likelihood of investigation and prosecution. The new powers to target suspected criminals’ money could also result in serious financial sanctions against suspected white-collar criminals, whether or not they are charged with a crime.
What to do if you are investigated or charged with a fraud offence or other white collar criminal offence
The penalties for white collar criminal offences, such as fraud, can be very serious, so if you are being investigated, arrested or charged, you need specialist legal advice as soon as possible. The same holds true if you find that your assets have been targeted with an Unexplained Wealth Order, Freezing Order or Forfeiture Order.
If you are innocent, you will need to make sure any case against you can be forensically deconstructed and refuted to clear your name. Should your assets be targeted, you will need to be able to prove the legitimate means by which you acquired those assets to prevent their confiscation by the State.
If you have committed an offence, expert representation is just as important. The right legal team can often significantly reduce any criminal penalties you face by ensuring every relevant factor is taken into consideration. There are often mitigating factors that can show that the harm caused or your culpability for the offence was less than prosecutors are alleging, which can assist in a lesser penalty ultimately being imposed.
Get immediate advice and representation from our expert white collar crime defence solicitors
If you have been arrested or charged in connection with a white-collar crime offence or are looking for early advice when you believe you may be at risk of arrest, our expert criminal defence team can help.
With specialist expertise in white collar crime defence, we can offer clear guidance on your legal position and exactly what you need to do, say and not say in order to best protect yourself.
We can be there from your first contact with the authorities, representing you during interviews, investigations and in any court proceedings. Our team has a strong track record of helping our clients to avoid criminal prosecution, frequently managing to have investigations dropped or to negotiate a low level of penalty where an offence has occurred.
So, if you need immediate advice and representation for a fraud offence or any other white collar crime issue, get in touch with our expert white collar crime defence lawyers now.