Government urged to crack down on internet giants amid scams epidemic

Tom Selby
28 March 2021

•    The influential Work and Pensions Committee is urging Government to take tougher action against internet giants such as Google, which are often used as vehicles to promote financial scams
•    Internet firms that allow fraudsters to advertise are accused of ‘lining their pockets from the proceeds of crime’ 
•    The Pension Scams Industry Group estimates £10 billion has been lost by 40,000 people to scams involving pensions since 2015
•    Figures published by UK Finance show investment fraud surged 42% to £135.1 million during 2020
•    Ministers face calls to include financial scams in upcoming Online Safety Bill and create new Pensions Scams Centre

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, comments: “The UK is in the grip of a scams epidemic, with a staggering £10 billion estimated to have been stolen from people’s retirement pots since 2015. 

“Given that context this report pulls no punches, laying bare the colossal scale of the challenge facing policymakers and accusing internet firms of allowing an ‘online free for all’ where scammers are able to ‘advertise with impunity while the tech giants line their pockets from the proceeds of their crimes.’ 

“The interventions proposed by the Committee, while significant, are proportionate to the size of the problem and have the potential to dramatically boost protections for savers.

“Tackling online advertising is the most obvious place to start, and the Government should seize this opportunity to include financial scams in the upcoming Online Safety Bill. 

“Holding social media firms and internet companies accountable for the content they display would be a huge step in the right direction in the fight against fraudsters, allowing authorities to get a grip on scam-ridden world that increasingly resembles the Wild West

“While creating an organisation specifically focused on scams would undoubtedly be a positive intervention, in reality the vast majority of fraud now occur outside of pensions. We therefore believe calling this organisation the Financial Scams Centre, rather than the Pensions Scams Centre, would be more appropriate and help ensure interventions are targeted where the most significant problems lie. 

“Creating and properly resourcing a Financial Scams Centre suggests could make a real difference to people’s lives, ensuring scammers’ increasingly sophisticated models are tracked and, where possible, stopped in their tracks. 

“Beyond these measures, the best way for individuals to avoid becoming the next scam victim is to know the tell-tale signs of a scam, ignore unsolicited approaches and do your due diligence before handing over your hard-earned cash.”

Tom Selby
Senior Analyst

Tom Selby is a multi-award-winning former financial journalist, specialising in pensions and retirement issues. He spent almost six years at a leading adviser trade magazine, initially as Pensions Reporter before becoming Head of News in 2014. Tom joined AJ Bell as Senior Analyst in April 2016. He has a degree in Economics from Newcastle University.

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