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Take tougher action against fraud, social media companies told

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Which? research has found that scams are rife on popular platforms and that social media companies are failing to take sufficient action against criminal activity on their platforms.

The Which? investigation found 50 scam profiles, pages and groups across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter which showed clear evidence of criminal activity. The content on these platforms included stolen identities, credit card details, details for compromised Netflix and Uber Eats accounts and fake passports made to order.

In one group on Facebook, researchers found the personal details of a man in Yorkshire which had been available for four months, including his full name, date of birth, address, phone number and complete information for his credit card.

The report claims that Facebook initially declined to remove the post after it was reported, stating that it does not go against one of their specific community standards. Eventually, the post was removed, but the group remained otherwise intact.

Fradulent activity on Facebook

Which?/PA

Image credit: Which?/PA

On Twitter, one fraudster offered to sell for £100 the full credit card details of a person with a bank balance of over £13,000, or three sets of card details for £200. Another fraudster offered fake passports for £3,000. Meanwhile, on Instagram the researchers found accounts laying out prices for different services to acquire full identities and offering “fraud bibles” to help wannabe criminals.

This content could be found using simple search terms, making it easy for anyone to exploit the victims.

While all 50 of the groups, pages and profiles were reported to the social media platforms, none were removed on Instagram or Twitter and only some were addressed on Facebook.

“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,” said Which? Money editor Jenny Ross.

“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.”

Facebook – which counts Instagram among its subsidiaries – 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.”

Twitter responded: “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.”

According to Katy Worobec, who heads the economic crime unit at UK Finance, social media companies and every other group in society had a role to play in preventing fraud.

“Criminal gangs are continuing to exploit social media platforms to commit fraud, whether it’s selling stolen identity and card data, recruiting 'money mules', or targeting the public with coronavirus scams,” she said. “Banks are taking action on all fronts to protect customers from fraud, including working closely with law enforcement to identify and take down fraudulent activity on social media where possible.

“We cannot win this fight alone. Every part of society - including social media companies - must play their part in protecting innocent victims and preventing money getting into the hands of criminals.”

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