Fraud is the biggest form of crime in the UK and nowadays there’s a lot more to it than someone using your stolen credit card. These are sophisticated scammers who trick you into giving them your money.
About 80 percent of these are cyber attacks – criminals use social media to steal. They run fake investment scam ads, pretend to have a car for sale that doesn’t actually exist, or trick you into believing they are your own kid in desperate need of cash.
Scams can be viewed as victimless crimes, but they cause emotional and financial devastation. More than three million people become victims in the UK each year.
So I applaud the Daily Mail’s Stop the Social Media Scammers campaign, which highlights the way scammers work.
But as the Mail demands, we must also force social media companies to put in place stronger systems to stop the scammers.
Online Threat: Scams can be viewed as victimless crimes, but they cause emotional and financial damage. More than three million people become victims in the UK each year
Some, like Google, Twitter, and TikTok, have already taken action to stop scams. Data from the banks shows that 61 percent of all so-called authorized push payment scams in the UK take place on platforms owned by Meta – Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Fraud has become such a big problem in the UK that the Prime Minister has appointed me his anti-fraud officer, the first time anyone has held such a position in any country.
Before becoming an MP I led banks’ efforts to stop fraud, but now my job is to lead the government against fraudsters.
We need to strengthen law enforcement, but we also need to stop the scams in the first place.
My job is to use all government tools, including legislation and regulation, to ensure that anti-fraud measures are strong enough to put the scammers out of business.
Most of it is perpetrated by organized criminal gangs, many of which are based abroad. About seven out of ten cases of fraud have an international connection.
It’s big business: they have plenty of cash, access to sophisticated technology, and can train their armies of con artists to work in scam factories.
The UK is a global fraud hotspot for four main reasons. There is more money here than in most other countries.
We speak English which makes it easier for international gangs. We are relatively technologically empowered.
And we have an instant payment system – Faster Payments – that makes it easier for scammers to snatch cash within seconds of receiving it.
There’s a lot to do to stop the scammers, but we’re already doing some. We just created a new national fraud squad with 400 officers.
We ensure that local police give fraud prevention a higher priority. Together with partners, we will launch a major awareness campaign so that more people know how to protect themselves.
But we won’t win the battle against fraud without sweeping changes in the way businesses – especially tech companies – work.
Hotspot: Data from banks shows that 61% of all so-called authorized push payment scams in the UK take place on platforms owned by Meta – Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp
Cheating is so diverse that there is no single bullet that can kill it. Therefore, the government’s approach is to use every weapon in its arsenal. We legislated to force banks and other payment providers to compensate victims of fraud – the only country to do so.
This gives them a financial incentive to use AI technology to block fraudulent payments. The payment systems regulator is considering slowing down suspicious payments to give banks and police time to act.
All of our mobile operators have now implemented an AI-powered SpamShield to filter out fraudulent text messages. While the system is far from perfect, it has stopped 600 million fraudulent text messages so far.
But given that 80 percent of fraud is caused by cyberattacks, tech companies must do the most to stop it. Many do a lot to prevent fraud, but not all – and scammers know how to spot weaknesses.
As the Mail claims, tech firms can take simple steps, like verifying the identities of those running paid advertising or trying to sell goods on peer-to-peer marketplaces.
The mail also calls for secure payment systems that work well on platforms like eBay.
The new online security law requires social media companies to treat fraud as “priority damage” and put in place robust systems to block fraudsters or face fines of up to 10 percent of sales.
This will take time to materialize, so I am negotiating an online fraud charter to ensure all major tech companies quickly adopt industry-leading anti-fraud systems.
This requires greater efforts from companies to stop scams in the first place, clean them up quickly when they happen, and work with the police to catch the scammers.
If all social media companies adopted the systems that the best use, it would drastically reduce fraud. No other country is doing as much as the UK to stop scams and other governments are keen to find out what we are doing.
Governments have never worked together to stop fraud before, but it’s a global problem.
It would be more effective if governments worked together. In the new year we will hold the first ever Global Fraud Summit in London to advance international government action against fraudsters.
We know we cannot stand still. Scammers make great entrepreneurs. If we shut down a business, they will find other ways to steal our money. But fighting fraud is now a clear priority for government, regulators and industry.
We are at a turning point and all weapons are now turned on the enemy. This is a fight we can win.
Meta said, “We recognize the important role we have to play in addressing this industry-wide issue.” We don’t want anyone to become a victim of these criminals. That is why we have fraud blocking systems in place and financial services advertisers are now required to be authorized by the FCA.
“Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated methods to scam people. That’s why we run consumer awareness campaigns to spot fraudulent behavior.”
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