Online Fraud

Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 4th March 2010.

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Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton 10:30 am, 4th March 2010

What steps his Department is taking to protect individuals from organised fraudulent online schemes which solicit money and financial details.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (also Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs) (also Department for Children, Schools and Families)

On 2 July 2009, the Government published the consumer White Paper, which details plans for more effective enforcement against those who deliberately set out to defraud consumers. I recently announced funding of £4.3 million for the Office of Fair Trading and trading standards to tackle those who use the internet to con consumers.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

The majority of victims of cyber scams are people aged between 35 and 44, but those aged 55 and over lose most money and are more likely to succumb to scams on more than one occasion. What specifically are the Government planning to assist those people to understand the dangers that they are face?

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (also Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs) (also Department for Children, Schools and Families)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that it is very important to consider the impact on vulnerable people, including the elderly, of the sorts of scams that we have seen operated on the internet. That is why we are investing in the scambusters team and trying to raise awareness of the problem among older people. She might be interested to learn that my predecessor and former First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, has just taken up the internet; when he was recently in the office he received an e-mail, which he showed to me, from a woman who said that he was exactly the kind of man she was looking for. I did point out that it was not from my hon. Friend Julie Morgan-his wife.

Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Labour, Aberdeen South

Will the Minister examine the OFT's powers to tackle this issue? The electronic version of these scams is new, whereas the paper version is not, but, like the paper one, it is becoming much more sophisticated and much more believable. I am not sure that the OFT has sufficient powers to tackle those scams, particularly when they originate from another country.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (also Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs) (also Department for Children, Schools and Families)

My hon. Friend raises a good point. The OFT and trading standards have powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, but we are examining enforcers' powers to tackle online consumer problems to see whether they need to be strengthened, and we are discussing that possibility with the relevant key players.