JEFF PRESTRIDGE: We want a new police unit with the sole job of wiping out the financial locusts that wreak so much havoc on us
More than five months ago, in the wake of a harrowing article I wrote about a young woman being robbed of £100,000 in an online Bitcoin fraud, I made a passionate plea to the government: do more to ensure that social media providers – the likes of Google and Facebook – are ‘cleaning their platforms from fraudsters’.
When it appeared the government was eavesdropping on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he acknowledged that online financial fraud was “becoming an increasing government concern and I think people across the country.” To think? Know, more like.
But sadly Johnson has since failed to respond to these words, leading to a locust plague of financial fraudsters currently hovering over the UK intent on draining our bank accounts from our lifelong savings.
Solving the puzzle: A locust-like plague of financial fraudsters is currently hovering over the UK intent on draining our bank accounts from our lifelong savings
As Rachel Rickard Straus’ article alongside highlights, these locusts have now spiraled out of control and are causing untold misery to many of those who encounter them.
In February, I called for new proposed online damages laws to include financial fraudsters — an idea Johnson said he would look into at the time.
Since these laws are designed to force social media giants (under threat of huge fines) to do more to target those who use their platforms to promote terrorism, cyberbullying or hate crime, it seemed only natural that they would embrace financial fraudsters as well. .
After all, most financial scams originate online, indicating that powerful social media companies should be encouraged (i.e. threatened with hefty fines) to do more to ban them from their platforms.
But so far – despite protests from city regulators, the police, MPs and consumer groups such as Which? – the government has refused to play with the ball. As a result, it is now highly likely that the online security law will pass parliament without tackling one of the greatest crimes of the century: financial fraud. Scandalous.
With no government intervention, this means consumers now have to rely on social media providers to clear their platforms of financial locusts.
Google is taking a step in the right direction by only accepting financial ads from companies authorized by the municipal regulator. But it remains to be seen whether the move, which will take effect from the end of next month, will be enforced.
Unlike most other crimes, financial fraud goes under the radar – mainly because it involves no physical harm. But it doesn’t mean that the emotional pain and financial trauma it causes should be ignored. Or that the perpetrators should be released.
That’s why we launched our Nail The Scammers campaign, with the aim of getting the government to take financial crime more seriously. We believe that a new police force should be formed, with the sole task of eradicating the financial locusts that wreak so much havoc on us. We will not rest until the locusts are gone.
Compensation for women’s pension?
It now seems only a matter of time before the government is forced to agree a compensation package for women born in the 1950s who have not been sufficiently warned about changes in their state pension age. An informational gap that resulted in millions of women not being told to wait up to six years longer than they thought before their state pension kicked in.
In some cases, this led to real financial problems, as women were not given enough time to close the gap in their household finances due to the delay in their state pensions.
A few days ago, the Ombudsman for Parliament and the Health Service ruled that the Ministry of Work and Pensions had been guilty of ‘mismanagement’ for not writing to women about the delay quickly enough. It must now decide whether this has resulted in an injustice that warrants financial compensation. If it recommends compensation, which seems likely, it’s up to the government to respond.
I can’t imagine the government giving in quickly or being as generous as it should be – remember the almighty struggle Equitable Life policyholders have had to get previous governments to act on the same Ombudsman’s recommendation to to pay compensation? To this day, most Equitable investors believe – rightly – that they were short. But you have to pay for the DWP’s failure to do its job well.