Counter fraud experts were told that fraud was ‘a priority harm’ in the regulator’s most recent consultation

UK communications regulator Ofcom has provided an update on the illegal harms consultation that closed earlier this year in February. 

Speaking at this month’s Fraud Charter roundtable (14 May 2024) – hosted by Insurance Times and sponsored by law firm Carpenters Group – Ofcom’s principal for online safety policy Hannah Green told counter fraud experts in attendance that fraud was ”a priority harm” in its most recent consultation. 

Ofcom’s recent illegal harms consultation followed the passing of the Online Safety Act into law in October 2023 and examined how it expected services to deal with legal harms on user to user and search services. 

The act includes protections for consumers against fraudulent advertising and impersonation of legitimate businesses and unlicensed financial promotions.

These requirements require social media platforms, for example, to put systems in place to prevent or minimise spoof ads online and remove them where possible.

Green explained that Ofcom was currently “in the process of working through all of the responses” to this consultation and hoped to publish a set of codes in due course. 

In the consultation, a combination of cross-cutting and fraud-specific measures were put to stakeholders to provide feedback on. 

Green said that cross-cutting measures included things like governance, user reporting and content moderation. 

Fraud-specific measures

Green explained: “We have three draft fraud-specific measures. The first of these is what we call dedicated reporting channels for fraud, which is basically the trusted flagger concept, and the idea is that we have a limited list of trusted flaggers that would be able to input directly into platforms to help them identify fraudulent content.” 

Ofcom’s thinking behind this, based on feedback they received from stakeholders, was to support the identification of what is real and what isn’t, which Green admitted was “not always straightforward online”.

She continued: “The second fraud-specific measure is notable or monetised-user verification, which tackles the issue of impersonation and fake accounts both for fraud and foreign interference. 

“We’ve basically set out a way of tidying up the verification process around ‘blue ticks’ to make it clear to consumers what they mean but to also make sure they’re tackling the risks of impersonation.” 

The third fraud-specific measure included in the consultation described in the consultation was a keyword detection system that Ofcom hoped would help to flag up fraudulent content such as the selling of stolen card credentials, for example.