Internet giants like Facebook and Google MUST act now to stop scourge of scam websites, say top City bosses
Top City institutions are urging ministers to tackle online financial scams amid concerns that criminals are using Facebook and Google to place fraudulent advertisements with impunity.
In a letter to Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden, groups representing Britain’s biggest banks, insurers and asset managers warned that victims are losing ‘life-changing’ sums because internet giants are failing to check the authenticity of digital ads.
This has led to a huge surge of ‘brand cloning’ scams, where criminals impersonate legitimate businesses to dupe victims into handing over their savings, they said.
Scam sites: Top City institutions warned that victims are losing ‘life-changing’ sums because internet giants are failing to check the authenticity of digital ads
Con artists have even pretended to be household names such as Lloyds Bank, HSBC, Aviva, M&G and Hargreaves Lansdown.
And fake ads have been waved through by Google and Facebook without proof of authenticity, signatories of the letter claim.
They said the internet giants should have a legal obligation to stop fraudsters misusing advertising platforms and for this to be included in the forthcoming Online Harms Bill.
At the moment financial fraud is not covered by the legislation, which largely focuses on child safety, bullying and extremist content.
More than £78million was lost to brand cloning scams last year – or an average of £45,000 per victim – according to Action Fraud.
Victims are often elderly people who are approaching or in retirement and the devastating losses can mean they are forced to work longer or sell their home.
Calls to tackle the fake ads have been backed by Alison Rose, the boss of Natwest, as well as Starling Bank boss Anne Boden.
The letter – seen by the Mail – was sent by the bosses of industry groups The City UK, The Investment Association, The Association of British Insurers, Innovate Finance and the Pension and Lifetime Savings Association, as well as the City of London Corporation and the City of London Police Authority Board.
City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, has made a ‘clear recommendation’ for ministers to include digital fraud in the Online Harms Bill, while MPs on Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee also backed doing so.
Despite much lobbying, ministers have said the bill is not the right place for measures to tackle scam ads.
They are instead consulting on an ‘online advertising programme’ that will look at new ways of regulating it.