Stop Scams UK, a collaborative group consisting of banks, tech companies, and telecom providers, is preparing to launch a trial aimed at combating the scammers who are running rampant in England and Wales.
This initiative, scheduled to commence next month, follows concerns raised by experts and companies that the government’s recently unveiled fraud strategy lacked the necessary strength to address the magnitude of the issue.
The UK trial will involve approximately 300 phone numbers and 100 email addresses operated by Stop Scams UK members, including major banks such as TSB, Starling and Monzo. Telecoms providers BT and Three, as well as tech giants Meta, Google, and Microsoft, are also participating in the endeavour.
“We are aiming to engage with the scammers in a way that is undetectable to them, and then use the information obtained to shut down the tools they are using to scam people,” one anonymous person involved with the project told Financial Times.
The project’s objective is to covertly engage with the scammers, gather valuable intel, and subsequently dismantle the tools they employ for fraudulent activities. This approach will prove particularly effective in disrupting the flow of criminal proceeds through the utilisation of money mules who are individuals who allow criminals to transfer illicit funds through their accounts for a few, thereby concealing the money trail.
According to UK Finance, the scammers cost consumers £1.2 billion in the past year alone. About 3.8 million fraud-related cases were registered in England and Wales till December 2020.
More often than not, fraud in the UK is orchestrated by organised gangs rather than individuals. Moreover, people hesitate to report fraud to the authorities. A recent survey by the Home Office revealed that less than a third of businesses reported their most recent fraud incident to the police.
While the government unveiled its long-awaited fraud strategy in May, it faced disappointment from crime experts and businesses across various sectors. Calls for stricter measures targeting tech companies and telecom providers, increased police resources, and the establishment of a unified authority to address the issue were prevalent. The UK government also intends to enhance the role of the intelligence community in combating international fraud and plans to deploy over 400 new specialists across police forces and the National Crime Agency by 2025.
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