UK Organisations Call for New Laws to Tackle Online Scams

Karthik Subramanian

A total of 17 orgnisations in the UK have written to the Home Secretary and the Digital Secretary, urging them to include online scams in the Online Safety Bill which would be announced in the Queen’s speech next week.

Online scams have increased manifold over the last few years and these organisations have stressed the need to protect consumers from the same. They say that it not only causes a huge financial loss to the affected people but also leads to large mental and emotional stress to them.

The organisations that have signed the letter include Which?, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, Carnegie UK Trust, UK Finance, the Personal Investment Management and Financial Advice Association (PIMFA), the City of London Corporation, City of London Police, The Investment Association, Association of British Insurers (ABI), MoneySavingExpert, and Age UK.

In their letter, the organisations wrote: “Online platforms play a pivotal role in enabling criminals to reach and defraud internet users through the hosting, promotion and targeting of fake and fraudulent content on their sites, including adverts that they make significant profits from. Yet platforms have very little legal responsibility for protecting their users, despite often being the best placed to tackle harmful content.”

“While we recognise there are initiatives being progressed by the government designed to tackle aspects of online fraud, there is a growing risk that current plans for future regulatory frameworks are not taking a comprehensive approach to the threats faced by consumers and do not reflect the extent or urgency of the problem.”

Scams have led to a loss of over 1.7 billion pounds over the last 12 months, Action Fraud figures indicate and more than 85% of these are online scams as more and more criminals move online in the hope of making a quick buck and also in the hope that tracing criminals online would be a much difficult task than doing it offline where well-established procedures help the investigators in nailing down the culprits much easily.

It is also very easy for criminals to reach a wide range of gullible people online with many not yet exposed to the various aspects of online technology. This makes it easier for criminals to target such people.

Anabel Hoult, CEO of Which?, said: “The biggest online platforms have some of the most sophisticated technology in the world, yet they are failing to use it to protect scam victims who are suffering devastating financial and emotional harm due to the flood of fake and fraudulent content posted online by criminals.

“The time for self-regulation is over, as clearly it has not worked. The case for including scams in the Online Safety Bill is overwhelming and the government must take the opportunity to act now. Online platforms must be given a legal responsibility to prevent, identify and remove fake and fraudulent content on their sites so that their users are better protected.”

Online scams continue to be the scourge of many industries including FX and crypto and as regulators scramble to put together laws to control this menace, it is the duty of each of us to be abreast of the technology that we use.

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