Liberal Democrats

F45: Keeping People Safe from Frauds and Scams

Motion as passed by conference

Submitted by: 12 members

Mover: Baroness Ludford.

Summation: Lord Marks (Lords Spokesperson for Justice).

Conference notes with grave concern that each year, around 3.5 million people across England and Wales are victims of fraud.

Conference further notes that:

  1. Fraud is the most prevalent type of crime, accounting for more than a third of all crimes, but is not getting the focus it deserves from the Government.
  2. UK Finance estimates that £1.26 billion was lost to financial fraud and scams in 2020, while a further £1.6 billion in fraud was prevented by banks and card companies.
  3. Most fraud happens online. Losses to criminals using stolen card details - usually obtained through hacks or other data breaches - to buy things online have doubled since 2013, to around £380 million in 2020. Internet banking fraud has also risen dramatically in recent years, with the number of cases more than doubling from 2019 to 2020, as more and more people are managing their finances online.
  4. Criminals are also increasingly defrauding people through 'authorised push payment' scams, where they trick their victims into transferring money to them. This includes getting people to pay in advance for goods or services that they never receive, taking their money for fake 'investments', pretending to be police officers or bank staff, and using fake profiles to form a 'relationship' with their victim to manipulate them into sending money.
  5. Criminals have exploited the Covid pandemic to dramatically increase certain types of fraud, with the number of online shopping cases reported to Action Fraud up 44% in the year to April 2021, and the number of romance scams up 15%.
  6. In May 2019, the banking industry adopted a voluntary code for dealing with authorised push payment fraud, including the principle that banks should reimburse victims unless they are at fault. However, of the £312 million of losses assessed under code as of the end of 2020, just £147 million (47%) was reimbursed.
  7. A lack of resources for the police prevents most fraud being investigated properly: only 3% of fraud offences reported in 2019-20 were disseminated to police forces for investigation, and only around 1 in 200 victims see their perpetrator convicted.
  8. In 2018, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee concluded that Action Fraud, the centralised reporting centre for fraud victims, "has irretrievably lost the confidence of the public, and reasonable expectations from victims are not being met".
  9. In 2020, Google was paid £572,814 by the Financial Conduct Authority to host adverts warning people about fraud, while also taking money from criminals to host fraudulent ads.

Conference believes that:

  1. Fraud is an appalling crime that particularly preys on vulnerable people. It can cause severe financial hardship, as well as enormous distress and fear.
  2. Far too many criminals are getting away with fraud, and far too many victims are being left without justice or redress.
  3. A far stronger response is needed from the Government, police, regulators, internet companies and banks, working together to prevent fraud, support victims and catch the perpetrators.
  4. Local branch closures have forced many people to use online banking, and banks must therefore do more to keep them safe from the risks it presents.
  5. Everyone should be helped and empowered to avoid frauds and scams, but the onus should not be on individuals to prevent them, nor should people be blamed for falling victim to them.

Conference recognises that local government is a key partner in working with the police and central government to raise public awareness of fraud and scams and to ensure close liaison and adequate funding for councils to play a full role in supporting local communities in tackling fraudsters.

Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment to create a new Online Crime Agency to effectively tackle illegal content and activity online, including fraud.

Conference calls on the Government to tackle fraud and scams aggressively, including by:

  1. Naming and shaming the banks with the worst records on preventing fraud and reimbursing victims, to help consumers make an informed choice and drive improvements across the industry.
  2. Setting minimum standards for all banks on preventing fraud, and requiring them to report to government on their performance.
  3. Replacing the voluntary industry code on authorised push payments with a mandatory, statutory code, including an obligation to reimburse victims unless there is clear evidence that they are at fault.
  4. Explicitly including a duty on social media companies and search engines to prevent fraud in the forthcoming Online Safety Bill, including a requirement to ensure that any adverts for financial services they host are from genuine, regulated firms.
  5. Establishing a national real-time warning system for scams, where individuals can check and report suspicious activity.
  6. Launching a high-profile public awareness campaign to help people spot, avoid and report frauds and scams.

England and Wales.