Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Making financial crime a priority

Well it seems the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) incident where millions of customers personal and financial details stored on an unencrypted CD went amiss, has opened a veritable can of worms.

My inbox is suddenly being inundated with emails questioning how well customer data is protected not just by government departments, but banks and other companies.

The HMRC incident prompted the British Bankers Association (BBA)to publish these rather terse words for law enforcement officers:

"Looking at the wider context in which this unacceptable lack of sensible data protection took place, it is clear that the Government has not yet accepted properly the case for making fraud and financial crime a priority for law enforcement in its own right," says the BBA.

Not only are government departments it seems letting the side down by not adhering to the strictest data protection principles, but the very same government that requires banks to spend millions on anti-fraud and money laundering measures, is apparently not even bothering to allocate sufficient resources to law enforcement to tackle both money laundering and fraud risks, says the BBA.

“It is quite extraordinary that the industry does so much on anti-money laundering, on fraud prevention and on identifying suspicious transactions, and yet this doesn’t feature among the priorities the police has been given by the Home Office.”

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that we have been particularly vocal about the cost/benefit of banks investing millions in AML solutions, when there is a very clear lack of transparency as to the success of these systems in accurately identifying suspicious transactions, and the percentage of transactions that lead to successful prosecutions.

Not only are the banks unwilling to talk about how many suspicious transactions they are actually reporting (although we hear the number of Suspicious Activity Reports have increased exponentially as compliance officers are reporting everything to cover their backs), but it appears the due diligence of law enforcement officers does not match the time and money being invested by banks in generating SARs.

Not only that it appears government departments appear to be giving potential fraudsters a hand-up by failing to adequately protect consumers' personal details. Surely the government needs to be made as accountable as the banks?

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