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The growing threat of online fraud - new report released

On 6 December 2017 the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts published its report: The growing threat of online fraud. 

Drawing on several Which? investigations, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticises the fraud education campaigns including the government-backed Take Five initiative, current police measures and initiatives and the current work being undertaken by the banking industry. Coupled with the proposed measures announced in the Payment Systems Regulator report on authorised push payment (APP) scams (CP17/2), following the Which? Super-complaint, published on 7 November 2017, it is clear the pressure is building on the banks and others in the industry to take more responsibility for fraud prevention, customer protection and customer education.

Key points in the PAC report

 The committee has come to a number of key conclusions and recommendations which will impact on banks, most importantly: 

  • The Committee does not consider banks are currently accepting enough responsibility for preventing and reducing online fraud and there is insufficient information to assess how each bank is performing. The Committee recommends setting minimum standards for banks to follow in preventing online fraud with a requirement on banks to provide a report to the Government on their performance.
  • The Committee says that unless all banks start working together, including making better use of technology, there will be limited progress on tackling fraud and returning money to customers. The Committee suggests working with the Joint Fraud Taskforce partners to make sure the banks make better use of technology and information to reduce card fraud and return money to customers. The Committee suggests this should include establishing minimum technical standards for strong customer authentication for electronic payments. 

However the report does not just put the spotlight on banks. The police, the Home Office and industry bodies are also included. For example, whilst the Committee acknowledges there are already current awareness campaigns such as Take Five, it is not convinced these are proving effective. The Committee wants to develop a more informed approach to education campaigns and identify opportunities to focus campaigns on specific groups.

The critical report was welcomed by Which? money expert Gareth Shaw, who said: "It is right that the Public Accounts Committee is treating online fraud with such severity, as we know first-hand the devastating impact it continues to have on consumers. We need to see real progress from the Joint Fraud Taskforce on this issue and for the banks to urgently introduce measures to compensate victims and stop these scams from happening in the first place."

Comment

The PAC report adopts a much more critical view than the PSR report. The PAC report does not draw on the work already being done by the industry and instead focuses on the perceived failings of the banks, the police and the government and makes some strong recommendations for improvements and changes. What is particularly noticeable is the lack of mention of any customer responsibility. It is clear the pressure is building on the banks and others in the industry to take more responsibility for fraud prevention, customer protection and customer education. 

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at January 2018. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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