Martin Lewis slams new Online Safety Bill for failing to protect millions of Brits from scammers


MARTIN Lewis has warned that millions of people are at risk of being ripped off without government action.

Vulnerable Brits must be protected from scammers under the new Online Safety Bill laws, Mr Lewis said.

Martin Lewis is calling on the government to protect people online

The proposed bill – if passed into law – will give the communications regulator Ofcom powers to crack down on social media companies.

But it doesn’t cover online scams or other financial fraud.

Mr Lewis said as a result, the bill is failing to protect millions of people with mental health problems who are more vulnerable to online scams.

Research by Mr Lewis’ charity, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, shows that those suffering with mental health issues face more financial harm online.

This includes impulsive spending and taking out high cost credit, as well as being targeted by fraudsters who are after their cash.

Symptoms of mental ill health such as low mood, reduced concentration and impulsivity can make it harder for people to control online sending or spot potential scams online.

The founder of MoneySavingExpert, said: “Scams don’t just steal people’s money, it often takes their self-respect and mental health too.

He added: “The government has promised to set world-beating standards for online safety, but as it stands the Online Safety Bill will utterly fail to protect people from the growing threat posed by online scammers, especially to vulnerable people.”

A survey by the policy institute found that those with mental health problems are three times more likely to have been the victim of an online scam.

They were also twice as likely to feel under pressure to spend money when online and that easy access to credit led them to spend more than they could afford, compared to those with mental wellness.

Previous research has highlighted how buy now, pay later (BNPL) is exploiting people with mental health issues, pushing them into debt.

The BNPL sector is facing stricter regulation from the financial watchdog as a matter of urgency after a government review.

Brits lose millions of pounds a year online due to fraud and scams and the number of victims has increased since the coronavirus hit and more people shop and spend time online.

Mr Lewis added “UK consumer protections and fraud investigations remain hopelessly inadequate and out of date.”

The financial watchdog has also called for greater financial protections to be added to the bill.

The Financial Conduct Authority has said it “believes there is a strong case to include financial harms in the online safety bill, given the scale of harm that investment fraud causes to consumers, many of whom are vulnerable”. 

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise the concerns about the growth in scale and complexity of online scams and fraud, and we continue to work closely with industry, regulators and law enforcement partners to pursue fraudsters, close down the vulnerabilities they exploit and make sure people have the information they need to spot and report scams.”

Martin Lewis has also warned millions of retirees are missing out on £3,000 a year in lost pension credit.

He has also explained exactly who qualifies for the £500 benefits payment for working tax credit claimants.

Meanwhile, there are fears shoppers face paying more for goods after Visa is reportedly set to hike fees for purchases ordered in the UK from Europe.