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Online Fraud

Volume 506: debated on Thursday 4 March 2010

1. What steps his Department is taking to protect individuals from organised fraudulent online schemes which solicit money and financial details. (320192)

On 2 July 2009, the Government published the consumer White Paper, which details plans for more effective enforcement against those who deliberately set out to defraud consumers. I recently announced funding of £4.3 million for the Office of Fair Trading and trading standards to tackle those who use the internet to con consumers.

The majority of victims of cyber scams are people aged between 35 and 44, but those aged 55 and over lose most money and are more likely to succumb to scams on more than one occasion. What specifically are the Government planning to do to assist those people to understand the dangers that they are face?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that it is very important to consider the impact on vulnerable people, including the elderly, of the sorts of scams that we have seen operated on the internet. That is why we are investing in the scambusters team and trying to raise awareness of the problem among older people. She might be interested to learn that my predecessor and former First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, has just taken up the internet; when he was recently in the office he received an e-mail, which he showed to me, from a woman who said that he was exactly the kind of man she was looking for. I did point out that it was not from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan)—his wife.

Will the Minister examine the OFT’s powers to tackle this issue? The electronic version of these scams is new, whereas the paper version is not, but, like the paper one, it is becoming much more sophisticated and much more believable. I am not sure that the OFT has sufficient powers to tackle those scams, particularly when they originate from another country.

My hon. Friend raises a good point. The OFT and trading standards have powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, but we are examining enforcers’ powers to tackle online consumer problems to see whether they need to be strengthened, and we are discussing that possibility with the relevant key players.