Government fraud campaign plan sparks division among banks

Plans for a new government information campaign to tackle the explosion in online fraud have sparked divisions among major banks over concerns about its cost and potentially conflicting public messages.

Sky News has learnt that the Home Office has in recent weeks been in discussions with major lenders including Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and Santander UK, as well as the industry lobbying group UK Finance, about an initiative that will join roughly a dozen existing fraud campaigns.

The Home Office is said to have earmarked a multimillion-pound budget for the drive, which is expected to launch in the coming months and include television advertisements.

City sources said a number of banks had been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements by Home Office officials seeking to brief them on the content of the taxpayer-funded push.

Its unveiling, which will follow a commitment made by Suella Braverman, the then home secretary, last year, is said by Whitehall insiders to have gained support from industry, law enforcement officials and across government.

However, several bank executives said they were concerned that the initiative would be a waste of public money given the prominence of the industry-funded "Take Five To Stop Fraud" campaign.

They added that the new advertising could risk distracting consumers from the "clear warning signs" outlined in the Take Five scheme.

Figures published by UK Finance last year suggested that more than £1.2bn was lost by customers of its members to financial fraud in 2022.

"We are taking robust action to protect the public from fraud, with offending falling by 13% compared to June 2022," a Home Office spokesman told Sky News.

"Since the rollout of our fraud strategy in May we have delivered the world's first online fraud charter with some of the world's biggest tech companies, created a national fraud squad and rolled out enhanced support available to victims across England and Wales.

"As pledged in our fraud strategy, we will shortly launch a national public awareness campaign, backed by law enforcement and a wealth of partners, to make it easier for people to spot fraud and take action to avoid becoming a victim."

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A UK Finance spokesperson said: "Take Five to Stop Fraud is a long-established and effective consumer awareness campaign to help people protect themselves against fraud.

"Our recent data shows that increased consumer awareness has helped to reduce fraud such as impersonation scams.

"We see Take Five as complementary to the Home Office's forthcoming campaign, and will continue our work alongside others in the fight against fraud."