Clean Up The Internet has today published a new report, “Making it by faking it: How fraudsters exploit fake social media accounts to scam UK users - and how strengthening the Online Safety Bill’s User Verification Duty would help stop them”.
The scale of online fraud in the UK is truly astonishing. Fraud now accounts for 41% of all crime against individuals, making it the most common crime. The vast majority (over 80%) of fraud now takes place online, and social media platforms are one of the main places where online fraud is perpetrated - Ofcom estimates 23% of fraud takes place on social media.
The report finds that social media platforms’ current, unregulated, approaches to account creation and verification are a major enabler of fraud. Most fraud relies on some form of identity deception, and at present it is extremely easy for fraudsters to use false and deceptive social media identities to deceive other users.
The user verification and user empowerment provisions in the Online Safety Bill - which would offer all users options to verify their identity, and to filter out interaction with unverified accounts - have the potential to significantly restrict fraudsters’ use of fake accounts - but only if they are tightened up.
The report explains why, to help tackle fraud, the Online Safety Bill must ensure that platforms make genuinely robust verification options accessible and affordable to all users, and require platforms to make it obvious to all users which accounts are and aren’t verified. Combined with an effective option to filter out non-verified accounts, these measures could significantly reduce the ability of fraudsters to target and deceive potential victims using fake, non-verified accounts.
The report features a foreword from the Conservative MP for Stroud, Siobhan Baillie MP, who has led efforts in parliament for the Online Safety Bill to include measures to tackle harms associated with the misuse of anonymous accounts. She explains that:
“We had a significant win when Ministers confirmed they supported our campaign to tackle anonymous abuse. The Online Safety Bill, as currently worded, now has verification measures included as a result of our work. Yet there is more to do and as this report sets out, the rising levels of online fraud indicate Ministers need to look again at whether the government’s User Empowerment clauses will actually secure meaningful change and protection”