In the December 2019 Queen’s Speech, the government announced the Online Safety Bill to tackle digital “harms”.

It is much needed. It aims to tackle some of the worst online behaviours, including grooming, hate speech and racist abuse. It will protect young people in particular.

But there is a glaring omission: online fraud. It does not cover paid-for scam adverts at all.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has pointed out that there is an “epidemic of scams” after the pandemic.

Online scams are particularly targeted at the vulnerable and the elderly. Many are losing hard-won savings, and having their lives ruined. 


Stephen Timms is calling for scam adverts to be included in the Online Safety Bill
– Credit: Office of Stephen Timms


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The work and pensions committee, which I chair, published its report on pension scams last March.

In its evidence to us last September, the insurance company Aviva said in the six months since the first Covid-19 lockdown, it had identified 27 fake websites purporting to be Aviva trying to defraud pension-age customers of their investments.

Too often, these scams succeed.

Our report called for the Online Safety Bill to tackle the problem.

Our call has been joined by many others, including consumer groups like Which? and, more recently, the City of London Police, the Financial Conduct Authority and the governor of the Bank of England.

However, in its response to our report, the…

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