New fraud prevention measures 'step in the right direction' says Martin Lewis - here's what's been announced, including one-click reporting
Social media users will be able to report scams with just one-click under new measures announced by the Government today. Banks will also be allowed to delay payments they believe to be suspicious, while cold calls on all financial products will be banned as part of a host of new measures designed to help tackle fraud.
A new national fraud squad will overhaul how scams are investigated and make it easier to report them
The Government's new national fraud squad will comprise of 400 specialist investigators who will work together with local police forces and the UK's intelligence community - which includes MI5, MI6 and GCHQ - to clamp down on scammers.
Newly announced measures to tackle fraud include the following - we've asked the Government when these new measures are likely to take force (where it's not already stated below) and we will update this story when we know more:
- Enabling social media users to report possible scams with just one-click. This will mean that, regardless of what social media platform you're using, you'll be able to find a 'report' button to highlight any possible scams immediately. This is expected to come into force this year and builds on Facebook's existing scam ads reporting tool, which was introduced after Martin sued the social media platform for defamation in 2018. Snapchat and TikTok already offer this service for adverts but have committed to extending reporting to other types of content.
- Allowing banks to delay processing suspicious payments. This will allow more time for any payments that may be going to scammers to be investigated. This is expected to come into force in 2023/24.
- Banning cold calls on all financial products. This includes types of insurance or sham crypto-currency schemes.
- Clamping down on 'number spoofing. This will see the Government working with telecoms regulator Ofcom to ensure fraudsters can't impersonate legitimate UK phone numbers.
- Banning 'SIM farms'. These are devices that can be loaded with hundreds of SIM cards and controlled from a computer, to then send out thousands of scam texts at once. A consultation setting out the proposals to ban sim farms has been launched and will close on 14 June 2023.
- Replacing the current Action Fraud service with a new system. This will be up and running within the year and is designed to provide a simpler route for reporting fraud online, with reduced waiting times and an online portal to allow victims to get timely updates on the progress of their case.
Martin Lewis: 'This is a good step in the right direction but it will be slow going'
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, who has been working in the background with Number 10 on elements of this policy, said: "The most important change here is one of attitude. It's only just over a year since the then-Business Secretary said fraud wasn't a 'real crime'. Now it is being made a priority crime, with extra resources and a commitment to reduce it. That's important.
"Scams are far from a victimless issue. They can destroy people's physical, financial and mental health. Yet sadly, few are properly investigated, fewer still see prosecutions, and online many huge tech firms still get paid to promote scams, albeit they plead it is unwitting. I sued Facebook over this five years ago, yet still almost daily there are scam adverts, featuring me, there and elsewhere.
"The measures being planned here are a good first step in the right direction. They should improve prevention and prosecution, but it will be slow going. Ultimately this is all about putting enough resources in to build a dam to stop the flood. I hope we will see that happen."
Martin and MSE are continuing to push for the Online Safety Bill to come into force as soon as possible
Last year, the Government confirmed that ads appearing on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, and those on search engines, including Google, would fall under the remit of the new Online Safety Bill.
This inclusion followed campaigning from Martin, MSE, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute - the charity founded by Martin - as well as a number of other charities, agencies and trade bodies. Celebrities including Deborah Meaden and Sir Richard Branson also signed our letter to the Government on the issue after having their names and faces abused by scammers in online advertising.
However, the Bill is yet to come into force and is currently going through the committee stage in the House of Lords. Martin and MSE, as well as other campaign groups, have been pushing for the Bill to go through as quickly as possible, writing to the then-Prime Minister Liz Truss about it in October 2022.
If you think you've been scammed, here's what to do
Take the following steps:
- If you've already responded to a scam, end all communication immediately.
- Call your bank directly and cancel any recurring payments – or, for speed and ease, you can call the new 159 hotline.
- Report the scam to the police through Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or report a scam anonymously on the Action Fraud website. If you're in Scotland, report a scam through Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or on the Advice Direct Scotland website. You can also report scams to Police Scotland on 101.
- If you need more help, contact the Citizens Advice helpline on 0808 223 1133 or via their website.
Here's how you can report a wide variety of scams quickly
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) sets out a number of different ways to report scams depending on the type:
- Emailed scams. If you get a dodgy looking email, you can report it to the NCSC by forwarding it to email@example.com. Remember not to click on any links within these emails.
- Text scams. If you get a suspicious text message, you can forward it to the number 7726 – this will allow your provider to track the origin of the text and arrange to block or ban the sender if it's a scam. You can also report scam text messages to firstname.lastname@example.org – remember to provide a screenshot of the text message.
- Website scams. If you notice a website or URL that doesn't look quite right, you can easily report the web page to the NCSC directly via its online form.
- Scam adverts, including ads on newspaper websites, paid-for search engine ads, or ads appearing on social media. These can currently be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) through its online form.
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