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Tech industry coalition launches Stop Scams UK to combat online fraud

Banks, fintechs and Big Tech are stepping in to take action after criticism of the government's National Fraud Strategy.

By Claudia Glover

A tech industry wide anti-fraud collaboration Stop Scams UK will launch a trial scheme next month in a bid to quell the current fraud crime wave in the UK. The trial will use 300 phone numbers and 100 email addresses to interact with scammers, gather information about them and use that data to shut them down.

Stop Scams UK has been launched to combat fraud (Photo by fizkes/Shutterstock)

Stop Scams UK is aiming to launch a pilot scheme next month that will use current intelligence to interact with scammers without their knowledge, using that data to shut down their operations. 

The group has 21 members, comprised of national banks, banking apps and tech giants Google, Meta and Microsoft.

Stop Scams UK to launch anti-fraud scheme

Fraud is currently the most popular form of crime in England and Wales. Citizens in the UK are twice as likely to be a victim of scamming than of any other crime. 

The scheme comes as companies and members of parliament have expressed consternation at the government’s new fraud strategy, saying it is too weak to meet this sizeable challenge.

Stop Scams will concentrate on combating “money mules”, individuals who allow criminals to transfer fraudulent cash through their accounts to cover their tracks through the banking system. 

The group’s director of policy and communications Simon Miller told the FT that “Stop Scams is leading the way in innovation in the fight against the scammers. We will understand how the scammers operate and get that intelligence to the right people.”

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Government falls short of making progress in preventing fraud

Fraud is a serious issue in the UK, robbing over £1.2bn in 2022, the equivalent to £2,300 every minute, states an Annual Fraud Report by UK Finance. 

The banking and finance industry prevented a further £1.2bn of unauthorised fraud from getting into the hands of criminals, continued the report. However, the UK government has been seen as lacking in its contribution to the issue. 

A recent report into the UK’s anti-fraud progress released by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee has called the issue “everyone’s problem but no-one’s priority.” The report explains that combating fraud is an issue for the Home Office but that the committee is “deeply disappointed in the slow progress made by the government in the last five years.” 

Law enforcement is not set up to tackle challenges presented by fraud, it says. The volume and complexity of fraud currently overwhelms the capacity of both Action Fraud and local police forces, who lack the training and resources they need to pursue the hundreds of thousands of cases reported every year. 

This is due in part to funding issues, David Hamilton, now retired chair of the Scottish Police Federation, told Tech Monitor this week. “There’s just nowhere near the amount of money required to do what we want to do,” Hamilton said. “I have yet to see a good cyber strategy. A lot of it doesn’t make sense for me, and it doesn’t make any sense for those on the ground.”

Of Stop Scams, the Home Office said: “We welcome proactive initiatives taken by industry to tackle this crime and identify the shameless criminals who seek to scam the British public out of their hard-earned money.”

Read more: Will deep fake cybercrime ever go mainstream?

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