FCA hunts data professionals for scam fighting squad

data more2The Financial Conduct Authority is launching a major recruitment drive for data specialists, across artificial intelligence, analytics and data science as well as cloud engineering and digital technology, as part of plans to ramp up its crackdown on fraudulent finance websites.

The new influx will work alongside the 100 data professionals it has recruited since 2020 and will be responsible for a range of data and digital initiatives, including improving the quality of the data the FCA collects.

The authority is already using data techniques to tackle online fraud faster by scanning approximately 100,000 websites created every day to identify those that appear to be scams.

Where the FCA identifies fraudulent websites, it is proactive in requesting the website host shut them down, although it still does not have the legal powers to force them to do so.

Between May 2021 and April 2022, the FCA added 1,966 possible scams to its consumer warning list – over a third more than during the same period the previous year.

This action forms part of an update on the FCA’s data strategy showing the progress it has made improving its use of data and its plans to identify and prevent harm sooner.

The FCA is using advanced analytics and new sources of data to identify inappropriate financial ads; last year 564 adverts were withdrawn or amended, double the number compared to previous years.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the FCA has also developed and implemented a sanctions screening tool to support the monitoring of the effectiveness of a company’s controls in identifying organisations or individuals that have been sanctioned.

This has been vital in supporting the FCA’s ongoing work with domestic and international partners in response to the war in Ukraine, the regulator claims.

The FCA will also provide its staff with a dashboard for all the financial companies it regulates and sectors it oversees in an effort to make it easier to identify and focus on the highest risk cases.

The data strategy underpins the FCA’s three-year strategy to reduce and prevent serious harm, set higher standards and promote competition.

FCA chief data, information and intelligence officer Jessica Rusu said: “Better use of data means we can be more proactive and find and stop harm faster. We are continuing to improve our data, technology and capabilities to act decisively in consumers interests, while making it easier for firms to report to us.”

In March, Government published the Online Safety Bill, which will outlaw scam ads from appearing on social media platforms and search engines.

The move was supported by MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis, who, along with Richard Branson, features in thousands of scam ads.

Paid-for scam and fraudulent advertising had been previously omitted from the Bill, but in December a cross-party group of MPs and Lords claimed its exclusion would “obstruct the Government’s stated aim of tackling online fraud”. They added that a lack of online regulation had left too many people vulnerable to abuse, fraud, violence and, in some cases, the loss of life.

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