The key to anti-fraud culture for housing associations
Fraud is currently the most common crime in England and Wales, accounting for almost 40% of all crimes reported. It’s estimated that the UK loses around £190 billion to fraud each year, and £1.8 billion of this figure can be attributed to housing tenancy fraud alone.
When you consider the scale of the problem and the impact it can have financially and reputationally, you can see why it makes sense to prioritise fraud prevention.
But fraud prevention involves much more than just creating a policy that will sit on a shelf gathering dust or adding ‘fraud prevention’ to somebody’s job description.
If you truly want to combat fraud, you need to create an anti-fraud culture. A culture that is intolerant of fraud will deter fraudsters and reduce the risk of fraudulent activities.
How to create an anti-fraud culture
Creating an anti-fraud culture takes time and will not happen overnight, but an effective fraud awareness programme is an excellent starting point. Implementing a fraud awareness programme shows you are committed to combating fraud and protecting customers.
Understand why fraud happens
Financial pressures often lead people to focus on their monetary situation and to rationalise behaviour that they would never usually consider.
The current economic situation is putting additional pressure on people, with some families being forced to choose between food and warmth. Even those with a comfortable income are looking for ways to protect their assets.
This additional financial pressure means anyone could find themselves in a position where fraudulent activity feels like the only option to resolve their financial problems.
Unfortunately, this means external fraud isn’t the only risk. Organisations also need to protect against internal fraud. If an employee is struggling to meet their financial obligations, they might be tempted to do something out of character if an opportunity presents itself.
Understanding why fraud happens makes it easier to spot risks.
Encourage an open dialogue
Fraud is an issue to be discussed openly rather than being brushed under the carpet. An open dialogue about fraud should be encouraged, and potential fraudsters should know their actions will not be tolerated.
Don’t shy away from conversations about fraud or try to cover up fraudulent activity. Have honest discussions about where the vulnerabilities are and make fraud prevention a collaborative process.
Lead by example
A zero-tolerance attitude towards fraud should be set from the top down. Senior management must set the tone for the organisation's anti-fraud culture, communicating the message clearly and consistently.
This means acting honestly – not manipulating figures, withholding information, or ignoring procedures. Minor transgressions might not seem like a big deal, but they often snowball. The lines between right and wrong become more and more blurred.
Make fraud prevention everyone’s responsibility
Encouraging employee buy-in to combat fraud is essential. You might have a dedicated fraud team, but detecting fraud should be everyone’s responsibility.
Employees need to understand the impact of fraud on the organisation and its customers. They should be motivated to report any suspicious activity through the relevant channels.
Have clear reporting channels
Enabling employees to report their suspicions and concerns easily and confidentially is important. Employees should be encouraged to report suspicious activity without fear of reprisal, and whistle-blowers should be protected.
Provide employees with clear guidance on how to report their concerns and who to report them to. Have a process for investigating those concerns and reassure employees that you are treating their concerns seriously.
Provide fraud awareness training
Provide all employees with a clear understanding of the scope of fraud, the different types of fraud in the housing sector, and the risks they present. Employees with information about fraud will be better equipped to detect fraudulent activity and prevent it from happening.
By providing employees with training, directing them to the correct place to report their concerns, and demonstrating that the organisation is serious about tackling fraud, the risk of financial losses can be reduced.
Focus on Fraud Awareness
Meritec’s Focus on Fraud Awareness online course will give your employees the knowledge and confidence to be proactive in fraud and crime prevention. We have developed a sector-specific version for housing associations that covers key issues such as tenancy fraud.
All our digital learning products are SCORM supported to integrate with your existing LMS. Alternatively, we offer a fully customisable and secure eLearning platform with an optional mobile app for hard-to-reach learners.
Our pricing structure is completely transparent and extremely affordable. Pay a one-off set-up fee and a single monthly subscription fee to cover all your employees.
You can also take advantage of our housing association bundle, which includes our fraud awareness course alongside sector-specific training on other key areas such as cybercrime, mental well-being, and equality and diversity.
Contact our friendly team for more information on our digital learning products or to book a demo.