Insurer Aviva is urging the UK government to include financial scams promoted by paid-for adverts in the scope of the Online Safety Bill.
The Aviva Fraud Report, which was published in August and revealed the results of an investigation into fraud and financial scams relating to pensions, savings, investments, and insurance, found almost nine in 10 (87%) think the government should legislate to ensure search engines and social media sites do not mislead consumers or promote financial scams.
Paul Pisano, UK financial crime director at Aviva, pointed out that those most susceptible to fraud are those with debt or who have erratic income: “Fraudsters understand that those with low financial resilience are more likely to be looking for ways to save money, reduce debt, or grow any cash they have, making them more susceptible to fraud.”
“As government withdraws financial support for businesses and individuals [after the pandemic], and some consumers feel increased financial pressure, we expect to see more fraud in the coming year.”
Among the scams uncovered are fraudsters setting up imitation websites that look like well-known financial services brands, often using the legitimate company name within the domain name, through which to sell bogus products to unsuspecting consumers.
Fake comparison-style websites have also been set up, which encourage consumers to provide information about themselves and the product they are interested in buying, under the guise of getting the best deal.
Pisano explained: “Clone-firm investment scams can be extremely convincing and pretending to be a well-known brand name is fundamental in persuading consumers to part with their cash, which could be their life savings. Victims tend to be people approaching retirement age who have access to their pension pot and are browsing the internet in the hope of finding higher returns in what is currently a low-interest environment.”
To tackle to these and other emerging types of online fraud, the insurer has called for the government to include financial scams promoted by paid-for adverts in the Online Safety Bill currently making its way through Parliament.
Pisano said: “The current online environment combined with challenging economic conditions and increased financial strain on consumers is creating the perfect storm for fraudsters to exploit the most vulnerable. Government must act quickly to protect more consumers from becoming the victim of online fraud, by ensuring financial scams promoted by paid-for adverts are included in the Online Safety Bill.”