A new report from the United Kingdom’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) rebukes authorities and banks alike for not doing enough vis-à-vis online fraud and serves up a volley of suggestions for improving the state of play.
Online fraud, which per the report is the most prevalent crime in England and Wales, is estimated to have cost individuals some £10 billion last year. The private sector is thought to have lost as much as £144 billion to online fraud in 2016.
Around two million incidents of such fraud were reported to police last year. This hardly paints the whole picture, however, and the actual scale of the problem is anyone’s guesstimate. Only some 20 percent of the cases are thought to be actually reported by victims, who are reluctant to come forward due to the “untold distress” caused by such fraud.
“The crime is indiscriminate, is growing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing down,” reads the report.
What with the damning figures and the exigencies of the situation, the spending watchdog urged swift action on the part of authorities and the banking sector. The scale of the problem is too big for the Home Office to tackle on its own, according to the report, hence the need for working together with many other organizations, notably banks and retailers.
Banks are being urged to step up to the plate and to “work together to tackle this problem head on”, as their response has been found to be disproportionate to the scale of the problem. They were also found to be “unwilling to share information about the extent of fraud with customers”.
"Around two million incidents of such fraud were reported to police last year."
In addition, PAC called for greater commitment on the part of banks to developing more effective ways of tackling card-not-present fraud and for their accountability for this fraud and, by extension, for returning money to customers who have been the victims of scams. The latter issue has previously been the subject of some controversy.
“The balance needs to be tipped in favour of the customer,” according to the watchdog’s report.
‘Card-not-present’ fraud, which involves the use of stolen bank card details for transactions including online, doubled from 2011 to approximately 1.4 million known incidents in 2016. These developments largely echo earlier findings regarding card frauds.
Meanwhile, the report described response from police as patchy and urged the police to prioritize online fraud alongside efforts to tackle other sorts of crime.
Awareness campaigns aimed at keeping people safe online have been found somewhat wanting, in part because they are “supported by insufficient funds and resources”.
Contrary to the general perception that only the elderly and vulnerable are at risk of falling victim to internet-borne fraud, young people aren’t spared, either. In fact, their proclivity to sharing their personal information liberally on social media means that they are increasingly likely to be affected, according to the inquiry.