Scottish Daily Mail

Stop the online SCAMMERS

As web giants turn a blind eye to bogus savings schemes, the Mail demands . . .

- by Matt Oliver, Lucy White and Amelia Murray

THE Mail today launches a campaign to fight the growing scourge of online financial fraud in Britain.

Criminals are using sophistica­ted internet investment scams to swindle life-changing sums from victims – leaving many pensioners destitute later in life.

The crooks often use fraudulent adverts and websites to tout bogus schemes ranging from bonds and pensions to bitcoin.

And in a sinister developmen­t, many now use images of celebritie­s or household names such as Lloyds Bank, HSBC, Aviva, M&G and Hargreaves Lansdown without permission to lure victims into a false sense of security.

More than £78m was lost to these ‘brand cloning’ scams last year – an average of £45,000 per person – and the figure is rapidly rising, according to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.

Overall it is thought that £1.7bn was lost to fraud last year, with 85pc of cases taking place online.

Victims are often elderly. Many are approachin­g, or in, retirement and the devastatin­g losses can mean they are forced to work longer or potentiall­y sell their home.

And the proceeds are being used by criminal gangs to finance further crimes including drug traffickin­g, child sexual exploitati­on and even terrorism.

Despite this, sham ads and websites have been waved through with minimal scrutiny by telecoms companies and internet giants such as Google and Facebook, which make a profit from their placement.

So today, we are calling on the Government to take action against these despicable scams by including internet fraud in the forthcomin­g Online Safety Bill, also known as the Online Harms Bill. We want web giants to be given a legal responsibi­lity for the ads and websites they carry on their platforms. This would include verifying whether these ads and websites are legitimate and not linked to fraud.

Our Stamp Out Investment Fraud campaign is backed by Britain’s biggest banks, asset managers and insurers, as well as elderly charity Age UK and consumer champion Which?.

City institutio­ns who support it include TheCityUK, the Investment Associatio­n, UK Finance, City of London Corporatio­n, City of London Police, Innovate Finance, the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Associatio­n (Pimfa) and the Associatio­n of British Insurers. The Financial Conduct Authority – the City watchdog – says it has also ‘very clearly’ recommende­d that online fraud be included in the government bill.

Backing the campaign last night, Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Associatio­n, said: ‘Online financial scams have increased hugely since the start of the pandemic, with devastatin­g consequenc­es for victim’s lives.

‘We’re urging the Government to include these scams in the Online Safety Bill, and regulate online platforms to ensure the adverts they carry are legitimate and people are protected.’

Liz Field, chief executive of Pimfa, said they welcome the campaign. She said: ‘Online fraud is ruining lives and it is growing at an alarming rate. We urge the Government to take notice.’

And Anabel Hoult, chief executive of Which?, said: ‘We are delighted that the Daily Mail is taking a stand on behalf of the millions of people at risk of being caught out by fraudsters.

‘Online platforms like Google and Facebook are not doing enough to tackle an epidemic of scams, leaving users dangerousl­y exposed to devastatin­g financial and emotional harm.’

Last night Facebook said it was putting ‘significan­t resources’ into tackling scams, while Google said it had joined forces with banks in Stop Scams UK to take down bogus content quickly.


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