UK battling ‘fraud epidemic’

The Commons Treasury committee has warned a rise in scams is hurting consumers and taxpayers

The House of Commons Treasury committee’s report on scams and economic crime warned on Wednesday that the UK is suffering from a “growing fraud epidemic,” demanding the government swiftly introduce legislation to combat scammers.

Despite the government announcing an economic crime plan in July 2019 to address the problem posed by scammers, the report found that “fraud has continued its upward trend,” with data showing a 43% spike in fraud and computer misuse between June 2019 and June 2021. 

“For too long, pernicious scammers have acted with impunity, ripping off innocent consumers with fraudulent online adverts, impersonation scams and dodgy crypto investments,” Mel Stride, Chair of the Treasury Committee, said, adding that “fraud has soared during the pandemic.”

Calling on the government to “push harder and act faster” on the growing problem of fraud, the committee demanded legislation against online scam adverts, cryptocurrency regulation, and other reforms to get officials “back on the front foot.”

One of the urgent reforms sought by the committee is legislation that would make the reimbursement of victims of “authorized push payment (AAP) fraud” mandatory, repeating a demand from its 2019 report. AAP scams see criminals con people into transferring money from their bank accounts into the hands of fraudsters. 

The report comes after Lord Agnew, who served as the Treasury and Cabinet Office minister with responsibility for countering fraud, resigned over the government’s “woeful” performance in tackling scammers. 

Responding to the report, the government claimed that it is bringing forward an investment of £400 million ($541.44 million) over the next three years to tackle financial crime. 

“We are taking firm and coordinated action across government to crack down on economic crime, and are determined to go further. We will not tolerate criminals profiting on dirty money and will do whatever is necessary to bring these criminals to justice,” a government spokesperson said.

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