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UK households could lose £250m in fraud from Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

Scams originating from Meta platforms (Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram) account for 80% of fraud cases refunded by a major high street bank within its three biggest fraud categories – purchase, investment and impersonation.

TSB has called on Meta, the parent group of Facebook, to implement stronger tech interventions to protect its customers after the bank revealed that consumers could lose £250m from fraud originating from the platforms in 2023.

It highlighted that Meta platforms account for: 80% of all purchase fraud claims with 60% of these cases coming from Facebook Marketplace; 86% of impersonation fraud, driven by a sharp increase in WhatsApp-based “friends and family fraud”; and 87% of all investment fraud, largely driven by Instagram (59%).

The bank also estimated that over 70,000 purchase fraud cases – almost 200 a day – took place on Facebook Marketplace in 2022.

The findings confirm recent research from trade body UK Finance which found that three quarters of online fraud cases last year started on social media, with nearly 80% of authorised push payment (APP) fraud cases starting online.

Five safety measures

TSB’s chief executive, Robin Bulloch has written to Meta to request that it introduces five key tech interventions to protect UK households from fraud.

The five measures called for by TSB are:

  • Introduce a secure payment mechanism so people using Facebook Marketplace can pay for goods safely
  • Stop unregulated firms in the UK using Facebook and Instagram to advertise investments and financial products
  • Issue a clear public commitment to investigate all content flagged as potentially fraudulent within 24 hours
  • Filter out and block obviously fraudulent adverts
  • Flag to WhatsApp users when they’re contacted from new numbers and warn them to check that the numbers are genuine.

Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention at TSB, said: “Meta needs to face up to its responsibility: it has a duty of care to the millions of customers who use its platforms, which is all the more important when we see innocent people lose life-changing sums every day.

“Today, we have written to Meta demanding it puts in place the tech interventions urgently required to stem the tide of fraud and protect the many consumers who put faith in its services.”

A spokesperson for Meta said: “This is an industry-wide issue and scammers are using increasingly sophisticated methods to defraud people in a range of ways including email, SMS and offline.

“We don’t want anyone to fall victim to these criminals which is why our platforms already have systems to block scams, financial services advertisers now have to be FCA authorised to target UK users, and we run consumer awareness campaigns on how to spot fraudulent behaviour.”