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Call to include online scams in harms bill

Lily Canter
·2-min read
Just three in 10 respondents to Which?’s online survey were aware of the scam ad reporting tool. Credit: Getty.
Just three in 10 respondents to Which?’s online survey were aware of the scam ad reporting tool. Credit: Getty.

Consumer group Which? is calling on government to include online scams in the upcoming Online Harms bill.

A report by Which? found a third of participants did not know fake products could be advertised on Facebook.

Which? carried out research with an online community of Facebook (FB) users over 10 days, and conducted an online survey of 1,700 Facebook users, as part of its new policy report Connecting the world to fraudsters? Protecting social media users from scams.

The research found that older social media users are often more concerned about scams, and perceived as being at greater risk by their fellow users.

But the findings suggested younger people may actually be more susceptible to scams as they are more persuadable and more likely to take risks, such as taking part in online shopping and quizzes used by some fraudsters.

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And a quarter of all participants were not able to spot an investment scam advert with a fake endorsement from a celebrity.

Just three in 10 respondents to Which?’s online survey of Facebook users said they were aware of the scam ad reporting tool introduced by the site in 2019. Only a third of these, 10% overall, said they had used the tool themselves.

Action Fraud received more than 800,000 fraud reports in the year to June 2020 to the tune of £2.3bn ($3bn).

Which? is urging online platforms, including social media sites, to be given greater responsibility to prevent scam content appearing.

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Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?, said: “The financial and emotional toll of scams can be devastating and it is clear that social media firms such as Facebook are failing to step up and properly protect users from fraudsters on their sites.

“The time for serious action on online scams is now. If the government doesn’t grasp the opportunity to deliver this in the upcoming online harms bill, it must urgently come forward with new proposals to stem the growing tide of sophisticated scams by criminals online.”

In March seven of the biggest technology companies in the US including Google (GOOGL), Facebook, Twitter (TWTR) and Microsoft (MSFT), made a commitment to fight coronavirus-related fraud and misinformation.

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