The Prime Minister has backed Money Mail’s campaign to stamp out social media fraud, after we revealed the shocking scale of the problem originating online.
Rishi Sunak has thrown his weight behind our calls for tech companies to do more to protect their users from the surge in scammers, as their platforms have become a breeding ground for fraud.
He says: ‘The Mail is rightly shining a light on the devastating impact of online scams which ruin people’s lives.
‘We have to take the fight to these fraudsters if we are to stop them cheating people out of their hard-earned money, and that means everyone playing their part to clamp down on these crimes.’
Our investigations found that scams on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram — all owned by the social media giant Meta — account for an astonishing 16 per cent of all the crimes recorded in the UK.
Pledge: Prime minister Rishi Sunak (pictured) has thrown his weight behind our calls for tech companies to do more to protect their users from the surge in scammers
A total of 1.1 million people fell victim to scams that could be traced back to the social media company’s platforms last year.
Mr Sunak today promises to take action to force companies to join the fight against fraud.
He says: ‘As well as our new strategy to stamp out fraud, we’re bringing forward new laws to make sure tech companies make protecting people from fraud a top priority or risk tough penalties, and are working with industry to step up safeguards online.
‘We must work together to stop the scammers, and I am determined to use every tool at our disposal to keep people safe.’
In May, the Government published its ‘fraud strategy’, a five-year plan with the aim of reducing the crime by 10 per cent by December 2024 compared with 2019 levels.
It singled out online tech giants, claiming they need to do more to stop criminals exploiting their services. New laws will soon make it harder for tricksters to publish fake adverts.
The long-awaited Online Safety Bill entered its final stages yesterday, returning to the House of Commons after making its way through the Lords.
The Bill was first taken to Parliament 18 months ago.
It will require the largest and most popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, to prevent paid-for fraudulent adverts appearing on their websites and applications.
Companies will have to crack down on fake adverts, including posts that have been ‘boosted’ on social media when a user has paid to promote them more widely.
Unregulated: Online shopping scams have become one of the biggest risks to social media users, as sales sites are allowed to operate with little to no protections
The new rules are designed to improve protection for internet users against the potentially disastrous impact of fake adverts, including where fraudsters pose as celebrities or trusted companies to steal personal data and swindle money.
Elsewhere, anti-fraud ‘champion’ and MP Anthony Browne is currently drawing up a ‘tech charter’ to set new voluntary targets for companies to reduce fraud.
However, we are concerned that neither the new laws nor the tech charter go far enough to weed out fraud and that the slow progress will leave millions vulnerable to crooks in the meantime.
A report by Nationwide and think-tank the Social Market Foundation warns there are concerns that the charter will fall short of making a significant difference.
At present, tech companies have no obligation to pay towards the cost of reimbursing victims who lose money after falling for scams originating on their platforms.
They face little regulation around verifying users and removing bogus investments posted by criminals on their platforms.
We believe everyone has to play their part in the battle against fraud — and for too long social media giants have shrugged off their responsibility.
Online shopping scams have become one of the biggest risks to social media users, as sales sites are allowed to operate with little to no protections.
Following the Prime Minister’s endorsement, Money Mail calls on Mr Sunak to guarantee sales sites offer users secure payment systems to buy and sell.
Today, we raise the alarm over Facebook Marketplace — a trading platform that allows all users to buy and sell second-hand items.
Read the shocking findings of our investigation into Facebook Marketplace here.
Strategy: In May, the Government published its ‘fraud strategy’, a five-year plan with the aim of reducing the crime by 10% by December 2024 compared to 2019 levels
The website has become a behemoth, with more than 1 billion users, just seven years on from its creation.
However, it is a hub for international scammers, who are cashing in on a lack of customer protection on the site.
We believe that cracking down on the gaping holes in the site’s payments security should be a top priority for a Prime Minister committed to stamping out social media fraud. UK banking insiders have warned that losses from
fraud on the social media giant’s buying and selling platform are now so frequent that bank call centres are dealing with more cases of this kind than any other type of purchase scam.
Ben Donaldson, head of economic crime at banking trade body UK Finance, says: ‘Our focus is on stopping fraud from happening in the first place and Money Mail’s campaign is calling for key things that would make a real difference.’
In the UK, Facebook doesn’t have a built-in payment service like eBay with PayPal, or Amazon with its credit and debit card payment facility.
That means Facebook shoppers often use bank transfers to send money directly, putting them at far greater risk of scams.
Robin Bulloch, chief executive at TSB, tells Money Mail that the step is a ‘quite simple’ one for tech giants to put in place.
‘Many transactions on Facebook Marketplace are made simply on trust through direct bank transfers to “sellers” who then vanish once they’ve received the funds,’ he says.
Barclays’ UK chief executive, Matt Hammerstein, says: ‘It’s crucial that tech companies offer secure payment and ID verification systems, only allowing the transfer of funds through secure platforms to ensure the protection of their users.’
Head of fraud prevention at Lloyds Banking Group, Liz Ziegler, says that more than two-thirds of purchase scams start on Facebook and other Meta-owned platforms — disproportionately more than its peers.
‘Almost every major online marketplace has a payment mechanism built into its platform. While this doesn’t make them immune from fraud, it is a significant deterrent to fraudsters and provides a greater protection to buyers and sellers.’
‘It seems inconceivable that Facebook Marketplace — one of the world’s biggest online marketplaces — from what we can see, offers no such safeguards.’
A Meta spokesman says: ‘Facebook Marketplace is primarily a local listings service involving cash payments, so we provide no ability to pay for or to ship an item through our platform.
‘Unfortunately scammers are using increasingly sophisticated methods to defraud people, by taking conversations off our platforms where we can’t enforce, including through email and SMS.
‘We don’t want anyone to fall victim to these criminals which is why our platforms have systems to block scams, financial services advertisers now have to be FCA authorised and we run consumer awareness campaigns on how to spot fraudulent behaviour.
‘This is an industry wide issue and our work in this hostile space is never done – we encourage anyone who spots a scam to report it straight away so we can take action.’
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