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Clamour grows to add financial scams to UK 'Online Harms' bill

Clamour grows to add financial scams to UK 'Online Harms' bill

UK Trade organisations, consumer groups and a senior MP have joined forces to call on the UK government to reverse its decision not to include online scams in its new 'Online Harms' bill.

The Online Harms bill aims to force firms - through the threat of massive fines - to improve internet safety in areas such as terrorist content, child sex abuse, hate crimes, cyber-bullying and the dissemination of fake news.

However, financial fraud has not been included in the bill, prompting the latest call from UK Finance, Which?, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association, and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Stephen Timms MP.

The parties say that the Covid pandemic has created ‘a digital adventure playground’ for organised crime with reported online fraud up 50% since last year. There have been 89,153 reports of fraud at an estimated cost to victims of £406.5 million since 1 January 2021.

Yet, it is the financial services sector, not social media or telco firms, that end up as the "underwriter of all kinds of fraud that are not really financial fraud at all", as Starling Bank Anne Boden argued in January.

Speaking at Pimfa's Virtual Fest 2 event this week, Timms says that the Prime Minister has told him that he will look into the issue.

Says the MP: “At the moment online platforms are making money from scam adverts and fake websites and they are making money from the Scam Smart [campaign] adverts from the Financial Conduct Authority as well.

"I’ve called on the Prime Minister in the House of Commons to ensure that the planned bill does tackle online financial harms. He recognised the problem, he said it was a growing problem and he said we will look at what we [the Government] can do."

Katy Worobec, MD, economic crime, UK Finance, adds: "The banking and finance industry is tackling fraud on all fronts, but we need other industries including the online platforms exploited by criminals to join the fight.

"Including economic harm in the Online Safety Bill would be a major step forward in ensuring the tech giants take responsibility for their part in protecting consumers from this threat.”

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