The text message from HMRC about a Covid-19 refund, the email about a mysterious DHL parcel that couldn’t be delivered, the breathless Facebook post from Martin Lewis, urging you to invest in bitcoin – scams are a daily hazard of modern life.

Yet Lewis, the consumer champion who sued Facebook to force them to remove the fake adverts using his name, says that ministers have given fraudsters an “open charter” by failing to tackle online fraud.

Although a bill for online safety will be presented to parliament in the Queen’s speech next week, it will not include any measures to force tech giants, such as Facebook and Google, to vet all adverts they publish on their platforms – a legal requirement for TV companies and publishers.

“I just don’t get why,” Lewis told the Observer. “Why are they not doing it? There is an epidemic of scams in the UK. It’s been exploding for the past three or four years, and it’s been exacerbated due to the pandemic.”

Financial companies and charities almost all support including scam adverts in the online safety bill, Lewis said. “And while it’s being diplomatic on this, let me tell you in no uncertain terms – even the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, is shrieking that this should be in the online safety bill.”

In 2018, the founder of the MoneySavingExpert website launched a defamation action against Facebook for publishing more than 1,000 adverts paid for by fraudsters which used Lewis’s face and name to…

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