The UK government has deepened its commitment to protecting citizens from fraud after reaching what it calls ‘the first agreement of its kind’ with global tech companies.
Eleven Big Tech conglomerates – Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Match Group, Microsoft, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube – are expected to sign a pledge to remove fraudulent content from their platforms as part of the UK’s newly-introduced Online Fraud Charter.
Their sites will be subject to additional measures to strengthen fraud-fighting action against scammers and criminals looking to lure in users. Some of the measures include a tougher verification process for new advertisers and peer-to-peer marketplaces, as well as stricter controls to protect against romance fraud in online dating services.
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 £400m.
“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.”
Another key area that the online fraud act will focus on includes the protection of children from illegal ads or advertisements related to age-restricted products, such as alcohol or gambling.
It is expected that the Online Advertising Taskforce will soon publish an action plan that sets out the exact steps that the industry and government should take to increase online child protection.
Creative Industries Minister 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.
“Created in partnership with industry through the Online Advertising Taskforce, our Action Plan published today sets out steps the sector and government are taking to help keep people safe and toughen up protections for children.”
Nik Adams, Temporary Assistant Commissioner to the City of London Police, added: “As the national lead police force for fraud, we welcome the Online Fraud Charter.
“This charter goes further in supporting a whole system approach to effectively tackle fraud, by establishing a network of major online companies to join with law enforcement in helping to protect the public from criminals who would exploit them.
“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.”
The Charter’s signing ceremony is expected to take place at Lancaster House and will be headed by the UK’s Home Secretary Anthony Browne together with various senior representatives from the listed Big Tech companies.
Long-term discussions around the agreement were spearheaded by Security Minister Tom Tugendhat and Browne himself, and sought to equally involve the government, the private sector and law enforcement.
Special direct routes will be unlocked for law enforcement to quickly identify what will be deemed as “fraudulent content” under the agreement, and report this to tech companies..
Tugenhat added: “This is a very welcome commitment which has been created thanks to our close collaboration with some of the world’s biggest, and best, tech companies.
“I have every confidence this Charter will be an important step forward in our collective efforts to protect the public from fraud.”
The Home Office further emphasised that fraud currently accounts for 40% of all crime in England and Wales, with over three million fraud incidents reported last year – making one in 17 people a victim of fraud.
Further data from UK Finance has shown that almost 80% of all Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud cases originate from social media or fake websites.
However, the Online Fraud Charter announcement follows an already successful strategy by the government to tackle fraud, with the latest Crime Survey from England and Wales showing that incidents have been reduced by 13% in a year.
Home Secretary James Cleverly commented: “The Online Fraud Charter is a big step forward in our efforts to protect the public from sophisticated, adaptable and highly organised criminals.
“An agreement of this kind has never been done on this scale before and I am exceptionally pleased to see tech firms working with us to turn the tide against fraudsters.
“Our work does not end here – I will continue to ensure we collaborate across government, and with law enforcement and the private sector, to ensure everyone in the UK is better protected from fraud.”
The voluntary nature of the agreement requires all signees to implement the outputted measures within a six-month period.
Meanwhile, the UK remains committed to leading the global battle against fraud. Security Minister Tom Tugendhat will host a global summit on the topic in London next year.
Paul Davis, Director of Fraud Prevention at 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.”