Which?: Social media is fuelling UK fraud crisis

Jessica Bird

April 30, 2020

prevent fraud

Social media websites are failing to clamp down on scammers selling people’s personal information through there platform, according to an investigation by Which? Money.

The investigation, which took place before the coronavirus outbreak reached the UK, discovered 50 scam profiles, pages and groups across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram exhibiting clear evidence of criminal activity.

This included advertising stolen identities, credit card details, compromised Netflix and Uber Eats accounts, and fake passports made to order.

All were found by searching simple, barely disguised slang terms for fraud.

With fraud cases rising by a fifth in the last year, and losses to coronavirus-related scams already reaching £2m, this investigation highlights how these platforms’ lax measures around the trading of personal information are being exploited by criminals.

One particular post, detailing the full identity of an individual, including full bank account and credit card information, date of birth, address and mobile number, had already been up for four months when it was discovered during the Which? Money investigation.

Others offered to sell the full credit card details of individuals, or fake passports that could be used as proof of ID to open bank accounts and credit cards.

Twitter’s algorithms also meant that, having searched for and viewed such accounts, the site suggested ones offering similar services through its ‘who to follow’ section.

All of the pages found during the investigation were reported to their respective platforms via in-site reporting tools.

However, Facebook initially refused to remove the post containing an individual’s full details, on the basis that it did not go against its specific community standards.

The post was removed upon Which? requesting a review of the decision, but the group is was posted in remained up.

Facebook removed isolated posts reported by Which?, but the pages and groups were allowed to remain, while Twitter and Instagram did not remove any content that was reported, until it was brought to the attention of their media representatives.

Jenny Ross, editor at Which? Money, said: “It’s astonishing that social media sites make it so easy for criminals to trade people’s personal and financial information, particularly as fraud is such a prevalent crime that can have devastating consequences.

“Social media firms must take much stronger action to prevent their sites becoming a safe haven for scammers, and should work with the financial industry and police to address serious flaws with their platforms.”

A statement from Facebook, which also owns Instagram, said: “Fraudulent activity is not tolerated on our platforms, and we have removed the groups and profiles flagged to us by Which? Money for violating our policies.

“We continue to invest in people and technology to identify and remove fraudulent content, and we urge people to report any suspicious content to us so we can take action.”

A statement from Twitter said: “It is against our rules to use scam tactics on Twitter to obtain money or private financial information.

“Where we identify violations of our rules, we take robust enforcement action.

“We’re constantly adapting to bad actors’ evolving methods, and will continue to iterate and improve upon our policies as the industry evolves.”

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