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Online safety law aims to tackle scams and fraud

Man hand holding credit card and using laptop at home

Fraudsters deploy a range of scams and psychological tricks to con people out of money online, from creating fake adverts to rushing unsuspecting victims into acting quickly.

Polling shows that 7 in 10 people in the UK have seen an increase in suspicious or scam-related activity in the last three months, yet almost a third of respondents (31%) admit they wouldn't know what to do if they were targeted by scammers.

Barclays' advice is always to question whether something appears too good to be true -- and don't be afraid to be suspicious.

Data from the bank shows that purchase scams, where people buy goods online which don't exist or never arrive, account for over half (53%) of reported scams.

The average amount a person loses through purchase scams is £980; however, the biggest sums are often lost through investment scams, with £15,788 lost on average to these types of scams in the last three months of 2021.

"Investing should generally be a very measured activity and people who are looking to invest their money will often do a lot of research before making their decision, or at least ask for a second opinion," said Barclays' chief behavioural scientist, Dr Pete Brooks. "However, scammers are experts at exploiting the fact people want to grow their assets, and that we can sometimes put our better judgement aside for a high return opportunity."

This is reflected in the research, with three in ten (32%) of those surveyed admitting they would be willing to go with an investment or savings provider they'd never heard of if they thought the returns would be higher than their existing provider. Another fifth (21%) stated they were unsure, indicating they could potentially be convinced.

"We know that would-be investors are vulnerable to manipulation from scammers when put under time pressure, promised greater returns on investments, or contacted by what they think is an authority figure," explained Sian McIntyre, head of Economic Crime at Barclays UK. "That's why we want to remind the public to never ignore their concerns. If you are ever unsure, take the time you need to respond in the right way. The more we talk about scams, the better equipped we are to stop them."

The UK government recently proposed changes in the law to help protect people from scam adverts, including where criminals impersonate companies to steal people's personal data, offer dodgy financial investments or break into bank accounts.

Under new provisions put forward as part of the Online Safety Bill, social media sites and search engines will have a legal duty to prevent paid-for fraudulent adverts appearing on their services.

Martin Lewis, founder of and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, welcomed the planned legislation.

"I am thankful the government has listened to me and the huge numbers of other campaigners -- across banks, insurers, consumer groups, charities, police and regulators -- who've been desperate to ensure scam adverts are covered by the Online Safety Bill," Lewis said.

"We are amidst an epidemic of scam adverts. Scams don't just destroy people's finances -- they hit their self-esteem, mental health and even leave some considering taking their own lives."

He added: "Now we and others need to analyse all elements of this new part of the Bill, and work with Government and Parliament to close down the hiding places or gaps scammers can exploit."

Posted by Fidelius on April 19th 2022

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