Exclusive: Tech giants are ‘enablers’ of scam message fraud, says crime agency | #romancescams


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ech giants were today accused of being “enablers of fraud” as Britain’s top law enforcement body warned they were not doing enough to stop crime gangs from using their sites to cheat people out of huge sums.

In the first of a series examining the issue, the Standard can reveal that the National Crime Agency (NCA) believes that Facebook, Twitter, Google and others are helping to fuel a surge in romance and investment scams and other frauds by not doing enough to stop “predators” from targeting the public.

It added that victims were suffering “catastrophic” losses as a result and that there was “definitely more that could be done” by the tech bosses to prevent criminal activity.

Today’s rebuke was delivered by Graeme Biggar, the head of the NCA’s national economic crime centre, as he warned that “vast amounts of money are coming from people into the hands of organised criminals” because of the scale of fraud taking place.

It comes despite the Government’s announcement of a new Online Safety Bill which requires tech giants to stop “user-generated” content put up by fraudsters. Those which fail face large fines in an advance which Mr Biggar described as “brilliant news” that would improve public protection against fraud. But he warned that large gaps remained — including over online advertising by scammers — and that it remained imperative for social media and tech firms to do more to stop their networks being exploited by fraudsters.

“It is still a massive enabler of fraud, the online world, and these firms have all got a really important role to play in tackling it,” Mr Biggar said.

“None of them have done nothing. They’ve all done some things but it’s a fast-moving picture and there’s more they can do with their enormous power.

“The Online Safety Bill will be relevant to scams that are circulated on Facebook between friends, until Facebook messaging goes end-to-end encrypted, and it will be relevant to romance frauds when it moves from the main platforms onto conversations. But there’s a whole bunch of fraud which isn’t — the paid advertisements and the fake websites. We need to be working with the tech sector to get them to do more.”

He added: “They can stop it happening in the first place, report it when it does happen and use their analytical capabilities to spot patterns and tell us about trends. They can also share it with us and telecoms companies and banks, where if we’re sharing the right information we can spot more stuff and use each other’s powers to stop it.”

He said that tech firms could also help with “takedowns”, which happened only “to a varying extent with different companies” at the moment, and by “sharing with us the information they have on the IP addresses or the bank account details of who paid for different sites”.



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