Top tech firms sign new Government Charter to crack down on online fraud

30 November 2023, 14:34

Online Fraud Charter
Online Fraud Charter. Picture: PA

Home Secretary James Cleverly hosted representatives from several leading tech companies to sign the Charter.

The Government has launched an Online Fraud Charter with 12 major tech companies in a “world-first” initiative to combat online scams, fake adverts and romance fraud.

Home Secretary James Cleverly hosted representatives from several leading tech companies – including Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube – to sign the pledge to tackle internet fraud at Lancaster House in central London on Thursday morning.

Other firms signing the voluntary agreement include Amazon, eBay, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Match Group, Microsoft and X.

The Charter calls on the firms to introduce a number of measures to better protect users, including verifying new advertisers and promptly removing fraudulent content.

There will also be increased levels of verification on peer-to-peer marketplaces and people using online dating services.

The companies have pledged to implement the measures which apply to their services within six months.

The Charter is backed by a crackdown on illegal adverts and promotions for age-restricted products such as alcohol or gambling which targets children.

These steps will be detailed in an action plan published by the Online Advertising Taskforce.

Online Fraud Charter
Home Secretary James Cleverly and Anthony Browne during an event to mark the agreement of the Online Fraud Charter (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Speaking to reporters at Lancaster House, Mr Cleverly said the Charter was the “culmination of a huge amount of work” between the Government through Downing Street’s anti-fraud champion Anthony Browne and the “biggest tech firms in the world”.

The Home Secretary said the Charter was of “mutual benefit” to firms and the Government, adding “we are seeking to achieve what they want, which is a reduction of fraud on their platforms; and what we want, which is a reduction of fraud against British people.”

Before a signing ceremony, Mr Cleverly thanked representatives of the tech companies for “proactively” engaging with the Government.

Standing alongside Mr Browne, the Home Secretary said: “We want to make sure the British people feel physically safe from crime but also feel safe from fraud which we know is a large and growing crime type – but it is not inevitable, it doesn’t have to be that way.

“But if we are going to break this growth in fraud, we need to do it collaboratively, we need to do it with partners and that is why the work that Anthony has put in and the work you have collectively put in engaging with us is so very important.”

The Home Secretary added: “We’re very pleased that you have engaged with us so proactively – that you have enabled us to put in place a world-first, a groundbreaking set of relationships.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Fraud is now the most common crime in the UK, with online scammers targeting the most vulnerable in society.

“We have already taken action to go after these unscrupulous criminals, launching our Fraud Strategy and deploying a National Fraud Squad made up of 400 dedicated officers, all backed by £400 million.

“For the first time, we are beginning to see a drop in fraud cases, but we must do more.

“By joining forces with these tech giants we will continue to crack down on fraudsters, making sure they have nowhere to hide online.”

Lord Lawson Service of Thanksgiving
Sir John Whittingdale (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Creative Industries Minister Sir John Whittingdale said: “Whether it’s fake celebrity endorsements or scam ads, we have a plan to shut down illegal online adverts putting people and their money at risk.”

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said: “I have every confidence this Charter will be an important step forward in our collective efforts to protect the protect the public from fraud.”

Each of the tech firms will pledge to work closely with law enforcement including creating direct routes to report suspicious activity.

The Government highlighted that fraud accounts for about 40% of all crime in England and Wales, with data from UK Finance showing that almost 80% of authorised pushed payment fraud originating from social media or fake websites.

Antony Walker, deputy chief executive officer of techUK, said: “The Charter builds on measures that tech firms already have in place to defend against online fraud and will enable better and more consistent cooperation between the private sector, government and law enforcement.”

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “We are in the midst of an epidemic of scams, which not only devastate people’s financial lives, but their mental health and sense of self-esteem too.

“I’ve long called for regulation and law changes to make these big tech firms step up to the plate and deny these scammers the oxygen of publicity.

“So I am pleased at the signing of this voluntary agreement, which is adopting many of the scam ad protection measures we’ve been calling for – such as two click reporting, and advertiser and site destination verification.”

Temporary Assistant Commissioner Nik Adams, of City of London Police, said: “This charter has measures that will empower the public and increase their confidence in using online platforms, knowing that tech companies and policing are working to help keep them safe.”

Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention, TSB, said: “We’ve campaigned for years for tech companies to do far more to prevent the fraud that’s become rife on social media platforms.

“Now we have the Charter, it’s down to all signatories to match their commitment with meaningful concerted action – putting the right protections in place to reduce fraud and take responsibility to protect millions of consumers on their platforms.”

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “It is vital that the Government works quickly to open up more public sources of data to strengthen fraud intelligence and to stop fraudsters jumping across channels attacking consumers.

“The Government must also now utilise their central role and facilitate tech giants and financial institutions to share fraud data generated in their environments.

“It must not only ensure all signatories are held to account but look at the opportunity to bring big tech together with banks, telcos and internet infrastructure providers to create an impenetrable barrier to protect consumers from online organised crime.

“The next government must prioritise the glaring need for regulation in the domains and online advertising sectors or fraudsters will continue to flourish.

“In the end, consumers will judge the success of this strategy by whether they end up with better fraud prevention, detection, support and redress.”

By Press Association

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