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Don’t refund victims of online fraud, says Met chief

Victims of online fraud who have failed to protect themselves properly should not be compensated by banks, Britain's most senior police officer has suggested in an interview with The Times.

Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told The Times that it would be better for financial institutions to make the public more security-conscious with advice, than "reward" them when they are victims of cybercrime.

Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
Oli Scarff | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

"If you are continually rewarded for bad behavior you will probably continue to do it but if the obverse is true you might consider changing behavior," Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, told U.K. newspaper, The Times.

In terms of alternative ways to encourage greater online vigilance, Hogan-Howe suggested banks could tell the public to update their anti-virus software, and make sure passwords were more secure.

"The system is not incentivising you to protect yourself. If someone said to you, 'If you've not updated your software I will give you half back', you would do it," Hogan-Howe added in the interview, published Thursday.

Research by GCHQ appears to echo this claim, with the U.K. security organization estimating that 80 percent of successful cybercrime cases could be thwarted by safety measures, such as up-to-date security software and harder-to-crack passwords.

This Wednesday, U.K. home secretary, Theresa May addressed the issue at a conference saying today's technology is enabling criminals to operate on "a much bigger scale, with greater speed and anonymity" and far-wider reach.

Following the interview, consumer advocate groups criticized the comments made by the police commissioner, with U.K. consumer association Which? executive director calling it an "astonishingly misjudged proposal."

"When Which? investigated last year, we found too often that banks were dragging their feet when dealing with fraud. The priority should be for banks to better protect their customers, rather than trying to shift blame on to the victims of fraud," executive director, Richard Lloyd said in a statement.

British firm Saga, who provides a number of services to those 50 years and older, also weighed in, saying this was "no way for anyone to behave", especially a police commissioner.

"Blaming the victims of crime is no way for anyone to behave let alone the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Keeping up with scams is almost a full-time job," Paul Green, communications director at Saga, said in a statement emailed to CNBC.

"Society expects the banks and the police to be able to keep us safe from this type of crime - if they're unable to keep up with the ever sophisticated nature of this fraud, what chance do the rest of us have."

To read more on The Times' original story, click here

By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her @AlexGibbsy and @CNBCi