How UK tech companies are playing their part to tackle the rise of online fraud
The way fraud is committed is changing and dynamic. The pandemic changed the landscape as organisations accelerated the shift to digital operations, and fraudsters have followed suit.
The most common types of fraud include investment and pension scams, identity fraud and phishing among others. But while the instance of some frauds has fallen, such as authorised push payment (APP) fraud, where the victim is tricked into making large bank transfers to fraudsters posing as legitimate payees, there has been a spike in others.
Romance scams have seen a rise in the last year, where fraudsters feign romantic intentions to swindle the victim out of money. This is alongside the appearance of wholly new fraud risks.
It is becoming clear that to tackle this evolving issue, a cross sector approach across the value chain of tech, finance and law enforcement is vital.
techUK’s over 950 members, stretching from cyber security companies, telecommunications companies, digital identity providers and online platforms, are committed to combatting online fraud. Our members have experience in dealing with all facets of the issue, from technical threats, including ransomware and phishing to romance scams and nuisance calls.
A whole system response to an evolving threat:
It is clear that fraud is not fragmented. There is a value chain that passes through technology, but also encompasses a wider range of actors across our economy and society, from banks through to law enforcement. It is vital we work across sectors and public services, to track the behaviour of fraudsters, see the journey they take victims on and think about how we disrupt and stop the fraudsters at every step. Whether that is through better information sharing and coordinated action or other measures.
We have seen fraud typologies evolve in different environments, so we must also adapt to tackle changes at every step. The cost of living crisis has seen fraudsters target vulnerable people, while the festive period saw a rise in purchase scams. As platforms continue to take action, criminals look for new ways to conduct scams.
This is where a joint approach and a whole system change response is crucial. Not only do we need actions from organisations to stop fraudsters, but disincentivising fraud through the prosecution of perpetrators, establishing systems and processes to safely exchange information and data so that they cannot strike again, and widespread education to ensure less people become victims are all necessary tactics.
techUK is committed to continue leading the tech sector in driving change. We are part of the Home Office’s Joint Fraud Taskforce, working directly with ministers and secretaries of state to address fraud, and as part of ongoing collaborations with the Home Office, National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) and UK Finance (UKF), we work to conduct information sharing across sectors and create tangible solutions through the Online Fraud Group (OFG). techUK members have also been developing innovative solutions to support regulators and industry address fraud, through the deployment of AI, machine learning, digital identity and cyber security solutions.
techUK members work to tackle fraud at every step:
techUK’s membership, from platforms, cyber security, telecoms and digital ID and infrastructure providers have been conducting their own work to address a range of fraud types: from smishing, romance scams, nuisance calls and APP fraud. Ongoing member work includes scanning images for known scammers, tracking and blocking IP addresses, sandboxing scammers and machine learning to pick up on fraud behaviours. tech companies also work bilaterally with stakeholders including police forces, Action Fraud, as well as European counterparts to improve fraud sharing information and public education.
Take Five Campaign: As part of the OFG, techuk members Google, Meta, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft and TikTok collectively donated $ 1 million worth of advertising to the Take 5 to Stop Fraud campaign. The support by major tech companies for the campaign is part of a collaborative and innovative whole-system approach. This pledge of support enabled the Take Five campaign to reach hundreds of thousands of online users across the year and offer consistent messaging and awareness to over ten different types of fraud across the technology, banking, and finance industries.
FCA Authorisation of Financial Service Advertisers: Through the OFG, members Meta, Microsoft and Twitter committed in 2021 to introduce a revised advertising onboarding process, that requires UK regulated financial services to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority prior to serving financial services adverts on their sites. This process has already drastically reduced scams ads on several platforms and is driven in partnership with the UK Financial Conduct Authority as part of ongoing efforts to help prevent online advertising financial fraud. Members Google, TikTok and Amazon had also already implemented policies for financial services advertisers since 2021.
Stopping Nuisance Calls: Since the pandemic, there has been a rise in scam calls and text messages. Research from Ofcom suggests that 45 million people in the UK were targeted by this type of fraud in the summer of 2021. The challenges surrounding nuisance and unwanted calls has been a long-established priority of Ofcom and the industry, who are working closely together to reduce the potential harms caused by unsolicited communications. techUK members such as BT have been seeking to innovate in the fight against fraud, stopping millions of scam calls and texts each week. For example, since introducing EE’s new anti-spam filter last year, more than 200 million SMSs have been blocked and customer reports of scams on EE have fallen by 91%.
Work with Stop Scams UK: Almost all scams will touch on two or more of the banking, technology and telecoms sectors. The only way to effectively tackle this harm is for businesses across each of these sectors to work together on technical solutions to scams, backed by appropriate and proportionate regulation. Several techUK members are part of Stop Scams UK, working across sectors to conduct information research and building systems to notify financial institutions of any suspicious activity.
Harnessing the Power of Machine Learning and AI Solutions: As data breaches continue to fuel global cybercrime, trying to spot fraudsters becomes difficult when bad actors leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to industrialise their illicit behaviour. With this goal in mind, members such as LexisNexis® Risk Solutions have been working to tackle this, creating FraudPoint UK, harnessing the power of predictive machine learning techniques to holistically risk-assess identities, in near real-time.
Digital ID: Members in the digital identity sphere have also been offering solutions to combat fraud. Member Onfido uses remote identity verification and authentication using biometric technology, enabling customers from banks and fintechs to e-scooter providers to prevent bad actors accessing services. Many financial services customers use providers offering such technology to help meet regulatory compliance requirements such as anti-money laundering and “know your customer” obligations.
Tackling Fraud Through Cyber Security: techUK’s members provide a range of cyber security products and services, covering the three critical components of cyber security – technology, people and processes. They offer technical solutions, as well as training people on how to avoid becoming the victim of fraud by knowing how to spot phishing or smishing.
Continuing Coordination and Collaboration:
techUK keenly awaits the publication of the Government’s National Fraud Strategy and is committed to working alongside financial services, regulators, law enforcement and government to continue conversations and create solutions to address this growing threat.
Tackling fraud is a key focus for techUK in 2023, and we will be working closely alongside our members to address this issue. If you’d like to find out more about our work on fraud and economic crime and how to get involved, please contact: [email protected]
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The UK is one of the most online societies in the world and as a consequence, online fraud is a problem. techUK and our members are working with partners across our digital society to disrupt and stop the fraudsters. Alongside our members, we are working with online platforms, cyber security, financial services, law enforcement and digital transformation companies to design workable policy and technology solutions that can help us tackle this serious issue. Get in touch to see how we can support your policy work. Visit our Digital Society Hub and complete the ‘contact us’ form.
Javahir joined techUK in June 2022, as Policy Manager for Digital Regulation.
Prior to joining techUK, she worked at the New Statesman, delivering cross sector policy research and events for their policy supplement. Javahir previously worked as part of the educational programme at the European Commission based in London, engaging with the UK's youth on the Brexit process.
Javahir holds a BA Politics and International Relations (Hons) from the University of Nottingham, an MA Human Rights from University College London, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Law from BPP University.