The House of Lords Committee on the Fraud Act 2006 and Digital Fraud heard evidence this week from comedian Joe Lycett and Rumpus Media producer Michelle Cox, who produces a number of fraud related TV programmes, including Lycett’s Got Your Back.
Lycett is known to pull pranks and once impersonated the former RBS CEO Ross McEwan on Twitter, which resulted in repayments to a victim of a social engineering scam.
Providing evidence at the inquiry, Lycett added that part of the problem is a low barrier to entry for those wanting to open bank accounts. Lycett explored how it is “potentially it is a little bit too easy to open a bank account, to not go into too much detail, I managed to open a bank account in someone else’s name with their information. That felt concerning to me that you could open accounts without too many questions being asked. I think it’s quite easy to funnel money in that way.”
Further, referencing the fact that Got Your Back receives a large number of requests to cover individual fraud cases, but are only able to deal with a small proportion of these, Lycett continued to say that: “The impact of these things is endless and very hard to measure, but it absolutely ruins people’s lives, to the point where people have lost their lives because of the depression and shame that come with being scammed in these ways. And unfortunately suicide is a result sometimes of that shame and that feeling of helplessness.”
Lycett added: “It’s indiscriminate in that it effects everyone in terms of age and gender and class and all of these things. It’s something that anyone can fall victim to at any point and could completely change the course of your life.”
Interestingly, Lycett did note that in his experience, scams “effect younger people more than the elderly, but anyone can be caught out by it and it can completely ruin your life.”
This is in line with IBM’s Global Fraud Impact Report which was released this week and proved that millennials were most likely to be victims of fraud.
Compensation was also a key issue during the discussion, particularly what entity is responsible for providing the compensation. On this, Lycett stated: “Banking to my observation has improved a lot since we started the series, but it is at their discretion whether they refund their customers who have been scammed.”
Lycett added: “I appreciate the banking sector but they have got some pockets. When they provide a service, they should provide a service that is not likely to be used for fraud. […] It’s such a big problem that you’ll never find all the scammers, but you can tackle it through education and through awareness and through making people aware of the very basic things that they can do to protect themselves and their privacy and their information. That will hopefully stave off a lot of these scams.”
During the session, Cox was asked about money mules, a topic which she has researched extensively as part of her work as a producer. Cox claimed that “there are some particular banks which seem to be preferential for fraudsters to use in order to target money mules. There are definitely things that could be put in place to toughen that up.”
When given the option to use parliamentary privilege to name the banks in question, Cox said she wanted to triple check before making a statement and will potentially do so in written evidence at a later date. However, Cox did reveal that in her view, it’s some of the newer banks where there aren’t necessarily branches, it’s all online.”
The session also covered other consumer fraud related problems including romance scams and fraud conducted through platforms like Airbnb, as well as so called “sucker lists” of individuals’ personal details which have been sold on the dark web to fraudsters.
The committee is accepting written evidence from the public until 22 April regarding how they can tackle the increased cases of fraud.