Heard something about us and wonder whether it's correct? Here are some common misconceptions about us and our work:
- "We are the 'Serious Fraud Squad'/part of the police"
No. Although we work very closely with police forces across England and Wales, we are not part of the police. We are called the Serious Fraud Office and never call ourselves the 'squad'.
- "We are part of the Home Office"
No. We have many partner agencies and organisations, but we are an independent government agency.
- "Fraud is a victimless crime"
Far from it. Fraud almost always impacts on victims. Many large-scale frauds target ordinary people and can cause devastating loss and distress. Even where there are no direct losses to companies or individuals, fraud is estimated to cost the British economy at least £38 billion. We understand the effects that fraud has on a victim - this is why we are focused on supporting victims and getting justice for them.
- "We can give you information on whether it is safe to do business with a certain company"
No. We do not hold information on businesses that we are not investigating. And we cannot disclose any information on companies that we are investigating as the information could form part of the prosecution case.
You can check the details of whether an organisation is registered on Companies' House online - http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/index.shtml. Companies' House is an executive agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills:
Although the Financial Services Authority (FSA) cannot give the public individual responses to queries on companies or businesses, it does encourage people to use its on-line register to check whether a company is regulated with them. However, this register is for financial institutions only, not businesses in general.
- "Our cases can be completed as quickly as other crimes"
Most other crimes do not come anywhere near the complexity of the cases we investigate. This means that our cases usually take a lot longer than other criminal ones. The current average length of an SFO case is four to six years but we are improving our processes and hope to see further reductions in these timescales.
There are many reasons for the length of our cases:
- the number of people and companies involved
- the impact of other countries involved, where we must conduct investigations
- the amount of financial data and accounts which need to be investigated and examined forensically
- the multiplicity and complexity of the financial transactions involved.
As a specialist organisation, we work very hard to turn cases around as quickly as we can within the confines of our resources and legislation.
- "We are responsible for returning your money once the confiscation order has gone through"
No. Once a confiscation order has gone through, it is the responsibility of the court to return any money.
- "We will investigate any case of fraud"
No. By law, we can only investigate the most serious and complex frauds.