With over £13billion lost to cyber fraud in the UK each year, Nickie Aiken MP took part in a Westminster Hall debate to highlight the work being done by the City of London Police, based in the Two Cities, to help combat some of the thousands of cyber scams in operation in the UK and to emphasise the need for government to ensure that local police forces have the capacity to take the cases forward.
Nickie spoke about vigilance for individuals not just in their day to day lives, but also in their online presence and reported that the best way to highlight these scams are to forward possible scam texts to 7726 or forward phishing emails to email@example.com
Thank you, Mr Dowd, and it's a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon. And I would like to thank the Honourable Member for Ogmore for securing this timely debate.
The scale of fraud and cybercrime is remarkable, affecting more people more often than any other crime. It represents more than a third of all estimated crime, with 6.1 million incidents in England and Wales in the year ending September 2020.
80% of reported fraud is facilitated by the use of digital technology, and the Coronavirus pandemic means so many more of us are using online services to shop, invest, and for leisure.
And our habits change, so do those of criminals. I believe that life on the internet should be as safe as our lives offline. If being exploited on the high street is unacceptable, the same must apply to vendors who operate online.
I am proud that the City of London Police, based in my constituency, is the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for economic and cybercrime and the national lead force for fraud. They work to investigate serious, complex, and cross-border fraud, which is beyond the capability of a local police force, and provides training for such police forces and private sector work through its Economic Crime Academy.
With the support of the City of London Corporation and stakeholders including UK Finance, the City of London Police has consistently shown how it can harness and work with the private sector to tackle cyber fraud, providing a bridge for law enforcement into financial institutions, and importantly, now into the Fintech sector.
Mr Dowd, I welcome the draught online safety bill announced in the recent Queen's Speech, which I hope will do much to tackle cyber fraud. Indeed, the inclusion of fraud within the legislation will provide much-needed encouragement for online service providers to take responsibility for protecting users of their services and implementing counter-fraud strategies to prevent malicious content. This is essential in a time where we have become even more dependent on making our digital defences robust and capable of dealing with the volume of fraud that we are now seeing.
By the same token, if we are seeing cyber fraud more often replacing traditional crime, we must allocate the relevant resources to reflect this new significance.
Equally, the City of London Police, which holds, as I said, the unique role in this landscape, must be properly funded so it can continue upholding their national responsibilities.
This said, online fraud need not be as sophisticated. Online threats can and do spring from almost anywhere.
Last year, the City of London Police alone requested suspension of 54,000 telephone, email, website and social media accounts.
Facebook, Amazon, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn are the platforms that feature most frequently in fraud and cybercrime reports.
And I'm sure all of us in this room use at least one of these platforms every day.
The challenge is immense, and online services providers must take more responsibility in protecting the users of their services and implementing counter-fraud strategies.
The Suspicious Email Reporting Service, developed in partnership with the National Cyber Security Crime Centre, has received nearly 6 million reports in the last year resulting in the removal of more than 43,000 scams and 86,000 URLs, including those linked to COVID19, investment, and online shopping fraud.
I personally have used the excellent service myself, forwarding suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and text to 7726.
We all have a part to play in ensuring those fraudsters are closed down as soon as possible.
Clearly, updating the framework by which we enforce against cyber fraud is a priority for this government, and I welcome their conviction on this. But the solution is not one dimensional.
All of us have a role to play with fraud prevention.
We know not to leave our doors unlocked, to leave possessions visible in our cars, to leave our telephones on a table when we're out eating.
We know that in order to keep ourselves safe, we have to take a degree of personal responsibility, and the same now needs to be replicated online.
And people, no matter what their age, should be taught how to keep themselves safe online.
Mr Dowd, one final point, if I may.
While there is more that can and quickly is being done centrally, I believe that there needs to be a greater priority placed on fraud at a local policing level.
Indeed, too few of the cases disseminated to local forces for investigation by Action Fraud have actually reached a judicial outcome.
So simply increasing capability, capacity and focus, centrally, will not address the substantial shortfall in local police forces to take cases forward. Now more than ever there needs to be a drive to boost local police capacity and ensure consistency of approach.
I'm glad to see the government respond with strength on this issue, and it is my hope this strength does not wane but fortifies itself to protect our citizens against aggressive and malicious abuses of technology.