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The UK’s banking and finance lobby group is claiming that the social media sites of Facebook owner Meta are carrying more than half of digital payment scams suffered in Britain.
UK Finance, which represents more than 300 financial companies, has written to Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, with data on the sources of payments fraud in Britain broken down by value and volume, according to two people familiar with the situation.
The letter says 61 per cent of all reported authorised push payment fraud by volume is connected to Meta, the company that owns social media sites Facebook, Facebook Marketplace, Instagram and WhatsApp, the people said.
The move by UK Finance is a renewed push by the industry to convince ministers to force the tech giants to take more responsibility for the increase in financial crime. UK ministers announced a national fraud strategy in May but dropped a previous proposal to make tech companies provide compensation.
Authorised push payment fraud is a scam where fraudsters trick people into transferring sums from their bank account. This type of fraud escalated during the pandemic at a time when many people were relying on digital services.
Some £485mn was stolen through authorised push payment fraud last year, according to UK Finance. These scams include texts claiming to be a relative asking for money, and demands that the victim must settle a fine or pay overdue tax.
The letter comes amid mounting tension over which companies are responsible for compensating the victims of fraud.
Banks have a voluntary agreement to improve the amount refunded to victims of authorised push payment fraud, although the rates vary widely. But UK Finance has called for the tech industry to take more responsibility, noting that online sites are responsible for most of the payments fraud.
Julian David, chief executive of trade association TechUK, said it was “working closely with the government and UK Finance to tackle online fraud”.
“Tech companies will continue to undertake further significant actions to cut fraud as set out in the recent UK fraud strategy and we are currently working at pace with the government and the financial services sector to address the issue of authorised push payment fraud,” he added.
The national fraud strategy aims to co-ordinate the approaches of the government, the private sector and law enforcement. But the plans were watered down in favour of a voluntary “online fraud charter”.
A number of tech companies, including Meta and Microsoft, have toughened their approach to advertising so that UK financial services companies seeking to advertise with them must be approved by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Tech companies are also already scanning images and blocking IP addresses of fraudsters, while using machine learning to detect fraudulent behaviour.
Recent figures show that the 10 banks that signed up to the fraud compensation scheme showed a decline in complaints to regulators last year. However, lenders that chose not to join the redress scheme reported a 38 per cent rise in complaints.
UK Finance declined to comment.
A Meta spokesperson said this was an industry-wide issue with scammers using increasingly sophisticated methods to defraud people in a range of ways — including email and SMS, as well as offline.
“We don’t want anyone to fall victim to these criminals which is why our platforms have systems to block scams, financial services advertisers now have to be FCA-authorised and we run consumer awareness campaigns on how to spot fraudulent behaviour.”
Meta said people could also report this content in a few simple clicks and the company was working with the police to support their investigations.