ACSO submission to the Fraud Act 2006 and Digital Fraud Committee call for evidence on action to tackle fraud

Posted on Fri, 22/04/2022

Today, The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) submitted its response to the Fraud Act 2006 and Digital Fraud Committee call for evidence on what measures should be taken to tackle the increase in cases of fraud, particularly those online. 

Cara Elliott, policy and public affairs advisor at ACSO, said "just as with many aspects of our lives, fraud is becoming increasingly digitised. As one example, and as noted in a recent report, 'pre-internet' the UK police estimated that the average bank robbery would net criminals around £25,000 - £30,000 with a high chance of being caught. Online, however, fraudsters can reap highly lucrative rewards often with much less chance of prosecution. It is perhaps no surprise therefore that the UK Office for National Statistics estimates that cybercrime now accounts for half of all crime in the UK."

Elliott adds "while individuals can be well advised and well equipped to recognise that the warning signs of fraudulent online behaviour, there will always be instances where this is not the case. With this in mind, it is imperative that more responsibility is given to Big Tech companies to remove and monitor online fraud. With regards to ad spoofing, many search engines do not require any proof of identification or of a verified business, meaning that fraudsters can create convincing adverts in just a couple of hours. Perhaps more concerning, one third of victims who reported a fraudulent advert on search engines said it was never taken down. Outside of the UK, some platforms have introduced verification programmes which ensure all advertisers are legitimate. Even then, however, the measures allow advertisers 21 days to submit documentation, during which time their adverts will remain live, providing them with a grace period to continue to carry out fraudulent activity. As search engines can therefore profit from both the fraudulent adverts themselves and the anti-fraud campaigners paying to introduce alert systems, there may not be enough financial incentive for these platforms to intervene meaningfully. Without external pressure from government and regulators alike, this could continue to be a low priority for online advertisers.

"With many instances of digital fraud going undetected due to consumer embarrassment, there is a need for more intelligent systems of detection in order to paint a full picture of digital fraud in the UK. Therefore, firms must make deliberate attempts to find fraud and ensure there are comprehensive ways in which consumers can alert them to it. Once detected, data-sharing will be of paramount importance to ensure swift and united action to combat fraud. 

"ACSO believes it is crucial that any industry data collected regarding fraud, for example that collected by the Association of British Insurers to assess the extent of motor insurance fraud, should be independently verified, perhaps by the Office for National Statistics. This will help ensure that any public policy decisions are made based on reliable and impartial information, and will also help both educate consumers and protect them from unreasonable accusations of fraudulent behaviour. Combined with better data sharing within both the public and private sector, this type of response could render action against fraud considerably more efficient."