By sponsoring the Get Safe Online initiative, my Department continues to work with private sector partners to raise the very important issue of public awareness of internet safety. The Get Safe Online initiative has won two prestigious awards for this joint working, and it continues to increase the number and length of visits to its website. There have been more than 605,000 links to the site—far more than its US counterpart, which has achieved only 25,000.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her reply. A lot of people in my constituency still enjoy using cheques, which is a good thing, but more and more people—especially elderly people—are seeking to shop online because it is easy. What additional support and advice can she offer older users of the internet, who may be less familiar with the systems? What protections are in place?
My hon. Friend has been a long-standing campaigner on this issue on behalf of her elderly constituents. It is an extremely important matter, as people over 65 are the fastest growing group of internet users. That may seem slightly counter-intuitive, but that group of users grew by 15 per cent. in 2009 over the previous year, whereas the number of younger people using the internet grew by only 3 per cent. in the same period. Get Safe Online works specifically with Age Concern and has focused precisely on the important issue of security in banking and other financial transactions. It is important that the technology and content of websites always keeps ahead of fraud’s capacity to cause great anxiety and distress.
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Get Safe Online is a joint initiative, involving the Government and important private sector sponsors such as HSBC and Microsoft. Indeed, the Minister for the third sector, my right hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Angela E. Smith), recently hosted a sponsorship event as a result of which two new sponsors came on stream. It is clear that sponsors understand the initiative’s potential public benefit when it is presented to them. It is a very attractive sponsorship proposition.
The Minister mentioned fraud. With an increasing number of people being used as money mules, what are the Government doing to track down the foreign international gangs behind those schemes, and in particular to prosecute UK citizens who take their cut of the money?
I would like to refer the hon. Gentleman’s question to the Home Office, which takes the lead on this. I do not think that I referred specifically to money mules; I referred to protection for elderly people doing their banking and other financial transactions online. I hope that, as far as there is operational responsibility for this, his point about anticipating crime and future forms of fraud is taken into account in the constant review under the auspices of Get Safe Online working with the relevant organisations.
There has been a dramatic increase in cyber crime related to online transactions, as the Minister mentioned. Treasury figures show that transactions have more than doubled in the last three years, but the amount of identify theft and fraud has nearly quadrupled in the same period. What are the Government doing to tackle this growing problem, and what assessment has been made of the Payments Council’s decision to phase out cheques?