Financial scams to be included in Online Safety Bill

The Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has confirmed that the government’s Online Safety Bill is to include financial scams.

Dowden suggested there had been “significant concern” about the exclusion of online fraud from the legislation.

Last week, a coalition of 17 organisations wrote a joint letter to Dowden as well as to Home Secretary, Priti Patel, urging the government to include online scams in the proposed Bill. The letter warned that existing regulatory frameworks “do not reflect the extent or urgency” of the threat of financial crime.

However, the government has now stated that it “understands the devastating effect” that online fraud can have on its victims, and announced that the Online Safety Bill “brings user-generated fraud into the scope of the regulatory framework”.

Dowden confirmed that the change will “aim to reduce some specific types of damaging fraudulent activity”.

Aegon head of pensions, Kate Smith, commented: “We’re absolutely delighted that the government has listened to the pension industry’s concerns and included financial scams, including pension and investment scams, in the Online Safety Bill. Pension and investment scams have flourished during the pandemic as fraudsters have exploited our increasing reliance on all things digital.
“The Online Safety Bill will now be scrutinised by a joint committee of MPs before it’s introduced into parliament. The importance of this legislation shouldn’t be underestimated as it will protect people from the growing menace of online financial scams and hopefully make the internet a safer place for all.”

However, UK Finance, which was one of the organisations that signed the joint letter sent to the government last week, said the move still won’t tackle all aspects of online fraud.

“We’re pleased that the upcoming Online Safety Bill will tackle some aspects of fraud, but it won’t protect people from all fraud that takes place online,” commented chief executive, David Postings.

“As more of us have shifted online because of the pandemic, we've seen a spike in money mule activity, investment and purchase scams over the last year because criminals can target people directly in their homes across online platforms.

“Whilst the Bill includes fraud via user-generated content on social media sites and dating apps, it won’t cover cloned websites and online adverts which fraudsters pay for.

“We encourage government to include all economic crime within the Bill when it is formally introduced. Not doing so leaves a large proportion of the public at high risk of being scammed online, because criminals are experts in adapting their tactics to exploit any loopholes.”

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