The Security Minister has warned that tech giants should be fined if their platforms are used fraudulently. This is part of his efforts to stop the rise in fraud in the pandemic.
Damian Hinds revealed that he finds romance fraud – the growing phenomenon in which criminals prey on people looking for love – ‘particularly sickening’, speaking to The Mail on Sunday in his first newspaper interview since taking up his role in August.
‘The ways this is perpetrated and done at scale, it’s a horrible crime,’ Mr Hinds says.
‘It’s very cynical, it plays on our emotions as human beings.
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‘The thought of having been the victim of that kind of deception – it is just a horrible thing to even contemplate.’
The victims are typically women – 60 per cent of cases – and predominantly in their 50s, Mr Hinds says.
Male victims usually fall into two age groups – in their 50s or their 20s, he says, adding: ‘It’s probably a different sort of contact being made’.
The former Education Secretary also points out that large numbers of 30-year-olds fall prey to all kinds of fraud because they spend so much time online – challenging the stereotype that older people are usually targeted most.
Hinds also revealed how his family was a victim of online fraudsters when he tried to sell second-hand bridesmaids’ dresses on Gumtree.
His two daughters were bridesmaids about a year ago. Mr Hinds and Jacqui decided that they would sell their dresses.
They were offered by a woman from South Africa, who then asked for more photos.
Mr Hinds, 51, recalls: ‘And then, of course, it became: “Great, I’d love to buy them, but I can’t arrange the courier myself, can you just send me £30 to £40 to this account?”
Male victims usually fall into two age groups – in their 50s or their 20s, Security Minister Damian Hinds said, adding: ‘It’s probably a different sort of contact being made’.
‘At that point it didn’t seem right. We said we don’t want to carry on.’
But the potential buyer began emailing again, accusing the couple of breaking a contract and ‘really getting quite aggressive’, Mr Hinds says.
‘No money was lost. but it was a deeply unpleasant experience.’
It was reported by the East Hampshire MP to Action Fraud, an embattled agency which is now being replaced following numerous complaints about its efficiency.
However. However, Mr Hinds insists that fighting fraud is more than a police job. ‘We won’t pursue our way out of the problem,’ he says.
He supported calls to stop fraudsters from using fine tech companies.
‘Ultimately, there has to be a penalty, right? There has to be something you have to lose,’ the Minister said, adding: ‘I want tech companies to do more.’
He says that there is an imbalance that must be addressed. Every day, fraud causes losses to banks whose customers are being targeted by criminals. Online companies are not.
The former Education Secretary also points out that large numbers of 30-year-olds fall prey to all kinds of fraud because they spend so much time online – challenging the stereotype that older people are usually targeted most
‘Banks have done quite a lot to try and improve all of our defences to fraud.
‘We need to make sure everybody has those same incentives to minimise and stamp out fraud.’
During the pandemic, fraud has increased by 24 percent.
With fraudulent calls and texts, scammers targeted nearly 45,000,000 people in the summer. To describe the fraud boom, he uses his hands to create an explosion.
Mr Hinds, whose predecessor James Brokenshire died of cancer this month, has a brief that includes counter-terrorism, organised crime, hostile state activity and even maritime security – as well as fraud.
He was the chair of the first meeting for a new taskforce to combat fraud, set up by Priti Patel. He will continue to lead it.
In an effort to improve coordination, it brought together accountants, high street banks and telecommunications companies.
Mr Hinds is eager to get tech companies on the table as soon as possible.
Plans are in place for a national campaign raising awareness about fraud. Mr Hinds hopes to convey a simple message about how to tackle fraud in all its forms.
As he attempts to stop the explosion in fraud in the pandemic, the Security Minister has warned that tech giants should be fined if their platforms are used fraudulently.
He wants it to be ‘distilled down to reusable messages’ that ‘work across different contexts and settings’. He said that it was not wise to concentrate on raising awareness for one type only.
‘Guess what, it goes, and another one pops up,’ Mr Hinds says.
One week on, Mr Hinds says he was ‘devastated’ by the murder of fellow Conservative MP Sir David Amess.
‘Clearly it’s right in the aftermath to review security,’ he says, adding: ‘Local police have been in contact with all of my colleagues to talk about individual arrangements.’
Mr Hinds says there is a ‘legitimate debate’ on remaining anonymous online but points out it ‘plays some important positive roles’, citing victims of domestic abuse and people living under oppressive regimes, as well as the use it served during the Hong Kong protests and the Arab Spring.
He also cites existing powers that can be used to find and bring people in criminal cases, such as anonymous abuse or illegality.
‘It is a good thing that we have a debate,’ he says.