iPhone displaying some apps
Barclays revealed that scams are on the rise, with 87 per cent of all frauds now taking place on social media platforms, online marketplaces and dating apps. Chris Delmas/AFP

Digital connectivity is an essential component of modern life, and social media has evolved as both a strong tool for communication and a breeding ground for unethical behaviour.

Barclays, the leading British bank, in a new study, has revealed the surging menace of scams. According to a recent study, eight in 10 British people (76%) feel uncomfortable on social media because of scammers working on these sites.

This comes as the bank's exclusive research shows that 87 per cent of all frauds now take place on social media platforms, online marketplaces and dating apps.

This also comes as a study by GBG, an identity verification, location intelligence and fraud prevention organisation, indicated that more than two-thirds (63%) of smartphone owners are worried that their personal information like their name, and also their bank account number is easily accessible to criminals on the dark web that will buy them.

The study further disclosed that 88 per cent of British businesses are worried about the future as regards falling victim to fraud, while a little above half (53%), are especially worried about being victims to fraud amid the persistent cost of living crisis.

Barclays revealed that scams are on the rise, and people are losing money. Scams increased by 24 per cent in the last quarter compared to the same period last year. The most prevalent form of fraud, accounting for 66 per cent of cases, is the purchase scam, wherein consumers pay for products that either never arrive or do not match their descriptions.

Equally concerning are investment scams, which, despite constituting only five per cent of reported scams, have inflicted the gravest financial losses, encompassing nearly a third (30%) of the total sum lost to fraudsters.

To prevent scams, Barclays has issued a clarion call for comprehensive policy reforms to combat the mounting surge of scams. This call to action is echoed by 78 per cent of respondents, who believe that technology companies should intensify their efforts to thwart scams, while another three quarters (76%) want the government to do more to hold tech companies accountable.

Barclays has announced four major policy recommendations to combat the spread of scams. First, it suggests the establishment of a cross-government body within the Home Office, capable of harmonising the efforts of regulators, policymakers, industry groups and diverse businesses.

This unified approach would be fortified by collaboration with Anthony Browne MP, the Government's Anti-Fraud Champion, aiming to comprehensively address the entire spectrum of fraudulent activities.

Moreover, Barclays contends that rather than being optional, scam prevention measures should be obligatory for tech enterprises, necessitating suitable regulations and laws to ensure accountability. To enhance transparency and safeguard consumers, the bank also proposes compelling organisations to disclose their fraud statistics, enforced by Ofcom for tech companies and the Payment Systems Regulator for payment service providers.

Furthermore, Barclays also stated that the government should make organisations share their statistics on fraud in order to alert consumers about the hazards associated with utilising their services.

It said Ofcom should require tech companies to share data on scams occurring on their platforms, and the Payment Systems Regulator should require payment service providers (PSPs) to publish data on fraud sources. This should be in addition to the data now required of PSPs, including banks.

A significant step forward would be the creation of a victim restitution fund, the bank proposed, funded by all entities whose platforms fall prey to exploitation for fraudulent purposes. This fund, inclusive of tech giants and banks, would provide compensation to scam victims, incentivising organisations to prioritise robust scam prevention strategies.

Matt Hammerstein, CEO of Barclays UK, underscored the urgency of these reforms, emphasising that as digital interactions become increasingly integral to daily life, ensuring a safe online environment is paramount. He noted that the research shows that technology platforms, particularly social media, are now the source of nearly all scams.

The CEO highlighted that while banks are held to stringent regulations, the IT industry lacks a comparable framework, leading to the unchecked proliferation of scams.

Hammerstein stressed that collaboration among tech companies, government bodies and regulators is essential to curbing this escalating epidemic, which not only inflicts harm on countless individuals but also exerts a profound economic toll on the nation.

He, therefore, posited that only through united efforts can this detrimental trend be reversed, safeguarding both individuals and the UK's economic vitality.