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The UK’s Online Fraud Charter

Author: Niall Hearty  14 December 2023
2 min read

The UK government and some of the biggest tech companies have agreed on a plan to combat online fraud. Niall Hearty of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli outlines the measures.

The UK government has worked with some of the world’s largest tech companies to produce a first of its kind agreement to tackle online fraud.

The government, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Match Group, Microsoft, Snapchat, TikTok, X (Twitter) and YouTube have teamed up to develop the Online Fraud Charter.

The Charter, which is the first such arrangement in the world, has been devised to offer people better protection from online scams, fake adverts and romance fraud. It includes pledges by the companies to take additional action to block and remove fraudulent content from their sites and measures to ensure new advertisers are verified. This has to be seen as welcome news, following in the footsteps of the Online Safety Act 2023 which was passed in October 2023.

There will also be increased levels of verification on peer-to-peer marketplaces and people using online dating services will have the opportunity to prove they are who they claim to be.

The Charter will be supported by a crackdown on illegal adverts and increased efforts to prevent promotions for age-restricted products, such as alcohol or gambling, being seen by children. An action plan, agreed by the Online Advertising Taskforce, has been published to outline the ways in which the government and tech industry aim to increase protection for children when they are online. This includes developing a base of evidence, improving information sharing and promoting industry best practice.

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “Fraud is now the most common crime in the UK, with online scammers targeting the most vulnerable in society.

“By joining forces with these tech giants we will continue to crack down on fraudsters, making sure they have nowhere to hide online.’’

The Charter follows in-depth discussions between the government, the private sector and law enforcement. Each company that has signed up to it has pledged to work closely with law enforcement agencies to target fraudsters. They will run “direct routes’’ for law enforcement to report suspicious activity taking place on the companies’ services, in an attempt to speed up the identification and removal of fraudulent content.

Fraud accounts for around 40% of all crime in England and Wales. Data shows that almost 80% of all authorised pushed payment fraud originates from social media or a fake website.

The Charter aims to build on tech firms’ existing anti-fraud measures while ensuring better and more consistent cooperation between the private sector, government and law enforcement. While it is a voluntary agreement, it is clearly one that the companies that have a UK connection have felt obliged to sign, following widespread concern about the proliferation of online scams.

What has been agreed can only be good for the members of the public who use these companies’ services. Renowned financial advisor Martin Lewis had been calling for regulatory changes to the activities of the big tech companies for years in an effort to tackle this type of fraud and Security Minister Tom Tugendhat is due to host a global summit on the issue in London next year.

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Niall has a wealth of corporate crime expertise and an ability to coordinate global bribery and corruption cases. His achievements in such investigations have made him a logical choice for corporate clients.

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