Starling Bank CEO criticises government for not including fraud in new bill to avoid “heart-breaking stories”

Starling Bank’s CEO and founder Anne Boden has criticised the UK government for failing to include financial fraud in the Online Harms Bill, arguing it will lead to more “heart-breaking stories”.

The new regulation has been designed to reduce the harm caused by terrorist content, child sex abuse, hate crimes, cyber-bullying and the dissemination of fake news among other things.

It is set to be introduced in early 2021 and has been described as a GDPR-styled act that will slap digital companies with massive fines if they fail to live up to their responsibilities.

The bill will also be introduced in lieu of the scrapped porn block that would’ve seen customers have to verify their age before viewing adult content.

In a new blog, Boden argued that the omission of financial fraud could cause more damage.

“I’ve heard heart-breaking stories about customers from Starling and elsewhere who’ve succumbed to these scams,” she wrote. “We’ve worked hard to protect customers, including placing a series of highly prominent and explicit warnings, such as ‘this is a scam’, in the app. And we’re adding to our security measures all the time.”

However, while Boden recognised that both Starling and other financial institutions have done a lot to prevent fraud, she believed the nation’s lawmakers could have done more.

“I’m disappointed the government decided not to include online fraud in its Online Harms Bill and I hope it’s not too late to change this,” she said. “Banks invest billions to tackle economic crime, but we cannot stop it on our own. We need the cooperation of other industries, particularly the social media platforms and telecoms networks that are abused by criminals for the express purposes of financial crime.”

Citing figures from industry body UK Finance, Boden stated that “there are thousands of social-media accounts in operation by criminals at any one time” which are used to launch phishing schemes, scams, identity thefts and money laundering operations.

“Crime has gone digital as our whole lives have gone digital,” she said. “If we shop, work, communicate and entertain ourselves online, crime is bound to shift online too. And if we’re serious about tackling all kinds of financial and economic fraud and at the same time protecting customers, we need a cross-industry approach and we need better law enforcement to stop the organised gangs behind it. Banks cannot do this on their own.”

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