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Three-quarters of advance fee scams perpetrated overseas, Labour says

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said international fraud gangs are ‘feasting on’ the UK (Peter Byrne/PA)
Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said international fraud gangs are ‘feasting on’ the UK (Peter Byrne/PA)

Three-quarters of advance fee scams targeting people in Britain are committed overseas, Labour has said.

Some 76.6% of offences reported in 2021 originated from outside the UK, according to party analysis of National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) data which it obtained through freedom of information requests.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry accused the Government of inaction over the scourge of international fraud gangs “feasting on Britain”.

Advance fee scams typically involve fraudsters promising a large sum of money to victims in return for a small up-front payment, which they claim will be used to obtain the money.

Some 409,000 such offences were committed in the year ending June 2023, the latest Office for National Statistics crime survey for England and Wales suggests.

The scale of advance fee fraud has grown almost sevenfold since the year before the pandemic, when just 60,000 offences were committed, according to Labour analysis of past editions of the survey.

Ms Thornberry said: “The parasites behind these international fraud gangs are feasting on Britain and all the Government can offer in response is another global summit.

“We should be demanding that concrete action is taken now by overseas countries to shut down the gangs targeting Britain, and where we are negotiating trade access to the UK market with those countries, we should ask them to work with us to tackle fraud as part of any deals.”

The Government last month hosted representatives from 12 tech companies including Facebook and TikTok in London, where a new online fraud charter was signed in a bid to combat internet scams.

The charter calls on the firms to introduce a number of measures to better protect users, including verifying new advertisers and promptly removing fraudulent content.

Earlier this year the Government released its fraud strategy, which includes measures to allow banks longer delays to payment processing so as to allow for suspect payments to be investigated.

Security minister Tom Tugendhat accused Labour of appearing to be “behind the curve” and argued the Government has taken “concrete action to crack down on fraud”.

He said: “We’ve joined forces with leading tech companies to develop and commit to the online fraud charter – the first agreement of its kind anywhere in the world.

“We’ve launched a national fraud squad to pursue the most sophisticated and harmful fraudsters. And we’ve deployed our world-class intelligence agencies to hunt down fraudsters wherever they are in the world.

“Meanwhile, Labour continue to shout from the side-lines without coming up with a proper plan.”