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Social Media: Online Fraud

Volume 829: debated on Wednesday 10 May 2023


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with social media companies regarding addressing online fraud.

My Lords, the Government are engaging with social media firms to ensure that they play their part in tackling fraud. No. 10 held a round table in April attended by the world’s leading tech companies to discuss the new fraud strategy and kick-start work on an online fraud charter. This will be an ongoing dialogue. The Prime Minister has appointed Anthony Browne MP as the Government’s anti-fraud champion, who will also work with tech companies to ensure that they do more to tackle fraud.

My Lords, there was a lot of “ongoing” there. The Financial Services and Markets Bill contains some provisions around financial promotions while the Online Safety Bill has duties in relation to scams, but campaigners are clear that they feel the Government’s actions offer insufficient protections from the growing threat of online fraud. Ministers say that this is a matter for the online advertising programme, but we have been waiting a very long time for the outcome of that workstream. When can we expect progress? What would the Minister say to those who have been victims of fraud due to the Government’s failure to act?

My Lords, I have already referred to the new fraud strategy that was published only last week. The noble Lord will be aware that there are three pillars to that strategy—pursuing, blocking and empowering—with regard to tackling fraud in all its various forms. He will also, I am sure, have seen that in the fraud strategy there are a number of programmes and investments into law enforcement being made. He is right to bring up the Online Safety Bill, which contains many features, including the power to issue very significant fines. The fraud strategy also details some of the enhanced support that will be made available to victims.

My Lords, it was a pleasure to chair this House’s broad inquiry last year into the Fraud Act 2006 and digital fraud. I think we are all relieved to see that the fraud strategy was published last week. However, does my noble friend the Minister agree that one of the ways people are often contacted during fraud is through e-mails, which are unfortunately not covered by the Online Safety Bill? That remains a gap at this moment in time.

I pay tribute to my noble friend and thank her for the work of the committee that she chairs, the Fraud Act 2006 and Digital Fraud Committee, which published its report last year. She is right, of course, to point out that the Bill does not cover e-mails but, as I have just said, the fraud strategy enhances the support that will be available to victims. It will improve our data collection as well, which will be important in the ongoing fight.

My Lords, the committee’s report on fraud, just referred to, recommended the need to tackle online identity theft, as used by fraudsters to steal money from individuals and organisations. The committee specifically recommended consultation on creating a criminal offence of identity theft—surely there already should be one—so why have the Government not accepted that recommendation? Why do they not use the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill to address the worrying rise in this type of fraud?

The noble Lord makes some important points about identity theft, which of course can happen offline as well as online. It needs to be considered in all its forms. I have no insight into what will come forward in future legislation, but I will make sure that his concerns are reflected.

My Lords, it is almost two months since Committee on the Financial Services and Markets Bill was completed. Is there any news of this wayward stranger?

My Lords, I am busy with the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, but I will endeavour to find out and come back to the noble Lord.

My Lords, when does the Minister expect the proceedings against a Member of this House for fraud in PPE to be concluded?