The Daily Telegraph - Money

Social media giants snub crunch antifraud meeting

- Howard Mustoe

Social media firms and internet giants have been accused of failing to take online scams seriously after snubbing ministers and sending lobbyists to a high-level meeting.

The criticisms have come as the Government finalised plans for new laws to protect consumers online.

Consumer losses to fraud are on the rise according to police agency Action Fraud. Some 85pc of all fraud features an online element such as mimicking a bank website to steal data or advertisin­g fake investment­s. Last year, Britons lost £ 479m to bank transfer scams, £23m more than in 2019, according to UK Finance, a banking trade body.

However, despite the rise in crime and their growing influence, the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon and Snapchat owner Snap Inc sent low-level policy advisers and government affairs managers to a working group attempting to tackle the problem, Telegraph Money has been told.

Home Office minister Baroness Williams and digital minister Caroline Dinenage hosted the conference while Treasury secretary John Glen also attended. Ministers from the Department for Work and Pensions, senior civil servants, senior police and crime officials and high-level banking executives made up the group.

One attendee said he thought the working group was making progress until the tech giants “sent junior members who have no authority to sign anything off ”. He added: “The problem is that big tech is too powerful. Getting them around the table when they don’t necessaril­y want to is difficult for everyone, even for the Government.”

Campaigner­s want tech firms to have a legal responsibi­lity for weeding out scams or face heavy fines. Google, Twitter, Facebook and Snap declined to comment. Amazon said it provided a fraud expert and was committed to working to protect customers. Microsoft said it “strongly supports the Government’s ambition of tackling illegal and harmful content, including online scams”.

A government spokesman said: “We are deeply concerned by the growing volume of fraud committed online.”

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