Bermuda Post

Thursday, Jun 01, 2023

Crackdown on 'text scam misery' launched with new anti-fraud plan - but critics say it's not enough

Crackdown on 'text scam misery' launched with new anti-fraud plan - but critics say it's not enough

The government says it is launching a fightback against fraud - but opposition MPs say the plans do not go far enough.

The home secretary has pledged to stop "text scam misery" with a new action plan to fightback against fraud.

The strategy, to be laid out in parliament on Wednesday, will include banning cold calls on all financial products, such as those relating to insurance or sham cryptocurrency schemes, as well as plans to work with Ofcom to clamp down on number "spoofing", so fraudsters cannot impersonate legitimate UK phone numbers.

Banks will also be allowed to delay payments from being processed for longer to allow for suspect payments to be investigated.

But opposition parties said the plans do not go far enough while money saving expert Martin Lewis said they were a "good first step" but progress is likely to be "slow going".

Under the new strategy, the government also plans to crack down on methods used by scammers to reach thousands of people at once - such as so-called "SIM farms" and review the use of mass texting services to keep these technologies out of the hands of criminals.

Meanwhile, Action Fraud - the UK's fraud reporting centre - will be replaced with a new system within the year, backed by a £30m investment including 400 new investigators.

In an op-ed for The Telegraph ahead of the official announcement, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said fraud accounts for 41% of all crime across England and Wales and more than 3.7 million offences were reported last year - costing nearly £7bn.

She pledged to "stop the text scam misery", adding: "Our action needs to be bold and firm, but prevention is as important as any cure. That's why there must be an increased effort to block fraud at source."

Suella Braverman has vowed to 'stop the text scam misery'

And Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "We will take the fight to these fraudsters, wherever they try to hide."

However Labour's Emily Thornberry hit out at the plans, saying they ignore the "tens of billions being lost to fraud against businesses and the government".

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, added: "This plan is too little, too late and fails to match the scale of the problem.

"All the home secretary has delivered is a rebadging of existing national teams, and a re-announcement on the replacement of Action Fraud from almost two years ago."

The Liberal Democrats's home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael was also critical, saying the new fraud squad was a "drop in the ocean" for what is needed to protect victims.

A new anti-fraud champion, Anthony Browne MP, has been appointed and the plans have also been backed by money saving expert Martin Lewis as "a good first step in the right direction".

However he added: "They should improve prevention and prosecution, but it will be slow going.

"Ultimately this is all about putting enough resources in to build a dam to stop the flood. I hope we will see that happen."

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