A two year pilot of a unique police unit created by the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs) and the Home Office is to be launched on Monday to fight the organised crime syndicates behind steep rises in UK plastic card fraud losses.
The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit will primarily focus on criminals heavily involved in counterfeiting. This has become the UK's worst type of card fraud, which grew 50 per cent to cost £160 million last year. Cheque, ATM, identity theft and card-not-present fraud will also be investigated where organised crime is involved.
Based in London and comprising mostly officers seconded from the Metropolitan and City of London Police forces, the unit will work with other law enforcement agencies across England and Wales using intelligence provided largely by the banking industry.
Apacs' member banks and building societies are funding 75 per cent of the £5.6 million cost of the pilot with the Home Office providing £1.4 million. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) will support the unit.
John Denham, Home Office Crime Reduction Minister, says: "The new specialist unit will enable cheque and plastic card fraud to be tackled more effectively as the nature of the crime often means that police forces have neither the resources nor the expertise to investigate these specialist crimes."
Chris Pearson, Apacs chief executive, adds: "With losses from plastic card fraud topping £411 million last year, the banking industry recognises the need to share resources with the Government and police against organised card criminals. The pilot unit is a fine example of how the public and private sectors can unite to make a powerful attack on crime."
According to Pearson, if the pilot proves successful it has the potential to become permanent and possibly expand its remit to investigate cross-border cases working alongside agencies like Europol and Interpol.