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Call to list fraud as legal ‘online harm’

Fraudsters are all over social media like the rest of us, point out anti-fraud groups in a joint statement making the case for joint action against fraud online. It’s by among others the charity the Fraud Advisory Panel, the counter-fraud trade body Cifas, and the telecoms anti-fraud body TUFF.

As they say, social media lets the fraudsters locate, research and groom their victims with near impunity, hidden behind a veil of anonymity. “They can also contact, recruit, network and conspire with other criminals openly, without fear of reprisals. Because we need to stop criminals from misusing social media to commit fraud and cybercrime, we are calling for a complete re-think of our online defences.”

The bodies call on the UK government to include fraud among the ‘harms’ that the telecoms regulator Ofcom will regulate once the Online Safety Bill becomes law.

“Current remedies, including the Online Safety Bill, must be broad-based and future proofed (as best we can); focused on the harms done not just the technology used to deliver them. Social media providers should also know all their customers and make their online platforms safe for users (just like other businesses).”

Beyond that, the statement describes the 30-year-old law that governs computer crime, the Computer Misuse Act, as ‘wildly out-of-date’. And they ask for a public awareness campaign, ‘well-funded and sustained – and evaluated carefully – to help users think more critically about what they see and experience online. Facebook has already done this for COVID-19 vaccine mis-information. We see no reason why it can’t be replicated for other forms of online abuse and deception, and by other social media providers.”

The groups point out that social media has featured in at least 61,000 crime reports to the official police reporting line Action Fraud in 2020-2021, with losses of more than £120m.

For the full two-page statement, visit the Fraud Advisory Panel website.


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