Tech giants defend their measures to fight crooks

Tech giants have defended their policies to help UK customers avoid falling victim to fraudsters during disclosures to a committee of MPs, amid concerns over an increase in scams.

Google, Facebook, Amazon and eBay wrote in response to a request from Mel Stride, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, outlining measures to tackle the scourge of online fraud.

The committee asked the tech groups how much they had received in advertising payments from UK public bodies, including the Financial Conduct Authority, to warn the public of the risk of fraud, and any compensation they had offered these bodies for. advertising costs.

Tech groups have come under increased scrutiny in the fight against online fraud as the incidence of scams skyrocketed during the pandemic.

“With fraud cases increasing rapidly, it is clear that more action is needed to protect consumers online,” said Stride, a Conservative MP. “As a committee, we are calling on online tech companies to stop taking advertising books from these scammers. “

UK Finance, a trading organization for banks, said last month that criminals were exploiting weaknesses beyond the control of banks to trick customers into making payments directly to them.

He reported a 71% increase in the first half of 2021 in so-called ‘authorized push payment fraud,’ where criminals trick people into passing on personal information and passwords, often working through social media posts. social and online advertisements leading to bogus websites.

In letters leaked Friday, Google said it has offered to provide $ 3 million in advertising credits to the Financial Conduct Authority to help raise awareness of the risk of scams, and an additional $ 2 million in advertising credits for specific anti-fraud campaigns. against scams.

Facebook, the social media group, said it is committed to supporting an anti-fraud campaign led by UK Finance. He said no UK public sector body except the FCA paid for advertising on the platform.

The company also said it was “exploring further verification of financial services advertisers in the UK” and contacting the FCA about it.

Amazon said that between January 2020 and September 2021, it responded to complaints in the UK for more than 190,000 customers, with more than $ 2 million paid out as a result. It removed 20,000 product reviews after an FT survey last September found they came from just seven of Britain’s top 10 reviews.

The eBay auction site said the average payment under its money back guarantee, when items are not received or are significantly different from their description, is $ 13.10.

The tech industry has also been involved in the Online Fraud Steering Group, formed in April 2021 by TechUK Technology Industry Group (which includes all four companies as members), UK Finance and the National Economic Crime Center, a group created by the Home Office in 2018.

In May, a bill for the Online Safety Bill, which covers a wide variety of “online harms,” ​​proposed giving media regulator Ofcom the ability to impose fines on businesses up to to £ 18million or 10% of annual worldwide turnover if they fail to crack down on harmful content, including investment and romance scams.

The growing threat of legislative pressure has led to the formation of Stop Scams UK, an alliance of big banks and telecommunications companies launched in April. Of the four companies, only Google is currently a member, although eBay was the first to say it was open to membership.

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