VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Give regulators the power to stop the scamdemic

Stop scammers now! Give regulators the power to clamp down on dodgy financial websites, says VICTORIA BISCHOFF

Tech giants need to wake up and take responsibility for the role they play in facilitating fraud.

Time and again we hear from devastated scam victims who have lost their life savings after falling foul of rogue adverts online.

One campaigner, Mark Taber, told Money Mail he alone has reported 750 investment scam adverts to the City watchdog in the past 15 months.

And Google claims it took down an extraordinary 123 million financial services ads in 2020.

Clampdown: Campaigners and top industry experts have repeatedly called for scams to be included in the Online Harms Bill before it passes through parliament later this year

But why on earth are fraudsters not prevented from posting these adverts in the first place?

It’s not as if they are bothering to be subtle. Just search the web for ‘best fixed bonds’ and there they are, brazenly waving their fraudulent flags from the very top of the results page.

Even if an ad is eventually removed, crooks just post another using a slightly different name.

Instead of continuing to play this very costly game of Whack-A-Mole, we must start policing the internet properly. 

Campaigners and top industry experts, including Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey, have repeatedly called for scams to be included in the Online Harms Bill before it passes through Parliament later this year.

This new law is aimed at creating a safer internet, so it makes perfect sense that online fraud should come under its scope.

It would mean regulators finally have the power to force internet giants such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook to take down suspect financial websites. 

And Ofcom could fine firms if they fail to protect their users. With investment fraud up 164 per cent in just two years, it would be criminal for ministers to miss this chance.

Fraudsters are so sophisticated that even the most sensible investors struggle to tell a genuine and scam website apart. 

And as we reveal today, you can’t even bank on the old adage ‘If it looks too good to true…’, with some dodgy investment deals offering as little as 1.89 per cent.

The best way to protect savers is to prevent rotten ads for unregulated firms appearing online in the first place.

Without a clampdown, tech firms will continue to profit from the proceeds of crime. Not just once by accepting payments from fraudsters to advertise scams — but twice, with regulators also paying to publish warnings.

These firms boast some of the best minds in the world. They can – and must – do so much more to help stem this fraud epidemic.

NS&I qualms

Rarely a day goes by without at least one Money Mail reader writing to ask what’s happening with Premium Bond cheques.

NS&I had originally planned to phase out prize cheques – or warrants – from December.

But the move was later delayed until spring following a customer service meltdown.

You say you feel as though you are in limbo and are worried you could miss out on prizes.

Fret not. If you have not yet provided your bank account details, you will continue to receive a letter informing you of any wins as usual. 

As for when NS&I intends to revive its deeply unpopular plan to ditch cheques, there is no update as of yet. But we are following this closely and will alert you to any announcements.

Disloyal insurers

Last week, I wrote about how disappointing it was that plans to stamp out the loyalty penalty had been delayed until the end of the year. 

And your response proves just why we need swifter action.

Money Mail reader Pete Wood, from Cheltenham, said his car insurance premium jumped by £43 to £297 this month. He later found the same cover for just £183.

Fiona Paterson said her 97-year-old father’s home insurance jumped from £100 to £149 in a year. She has just renewed the policy for £95 with a different provider.

Insurers should be cleaning up their act ahead of the City watchdog clampdown, not cashing in while they can. 

But as it’s clear they have no shame, you must take matters into your own hands. Often just the threat of leaving is enough to shake down the price.