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Fourteen celebrities sign up to Martin Lewis’ letter to PM to put scam adverts into Online Safety Bill

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A group of trusted household names, public figures and celebrities, including Martin Lewis OBE, Sir Richard Branson, Deborah Meaden, Duncan Bannatyne OBE, Peter Jones CBE, Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Dawn French and Robbie Williams, have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for paid-for scam advertising to urgently be included in the upcoming Online Safety Bill.

Led by Martin Lewis – founder of campaigning consumer website MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute – the signees of the letter have all had their names and faces used by scammers in online advertising, often thousands of times, luring victims into fraudulent financial schemes or ‘selling’ fake health cures.

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Currently, there are few meaningful powers to prevent scam adverts from appearing online, and regulators are unable to punish the big tech platforms that get paid to publish them. Some victims have lost life-changing amounts of money, even their life savings (sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of pounds), because they trusted the reputations of the people used on the adverts.

Lewis, Branson and Meaden are among some of the most-used faces in online fraud according to Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre. Alongside them, those who have also been used by scammers and who have signed the letter are Duncan Bannatyne OBE, Rob Brydon MBE, Dawn French, Bear Grylls OBE, Peter Jones CBE, Lorraine Kelly CBE, Davina McCall, Phillip Schofield, Bradley Walsh, Robbie Williams and Holly Willoughby.

Martin Lewis, MSE and Money and Mental Health, among other consumer and industry organisations, have been campaigning to protect the public from an avalanche of scam adverts, and in the face of inaction from tech firms, have been calling on the Government to include paid-for scam advertising in its flagship Online Safety Bill.

To date, the Home Secretary and current and former Culture Secretaries have said the Government wants to tackle online advertising fraud separately to this piece of legislation. Meanwhile, huge swathes of people will continue to see their financial, physical and mental health destroyed after falling victim to scams they see through online advertising. This letter is urging the Prime Minister to change this position and finally put paid-for scam advertising in the Bill.

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “Right now, the Government’s planned Online Safety Bill isn’t just blindly ignoring the epidemic of scam adverts that the UK faces – it’s actually going to make it worse. By making big tech responsible for user-generated scams but not paid-for scam adverts, it creates an incentive for criminal scammers to switch to advertising. To say it will look at scam ads regulation later, likely years away, when this regulation will make it worse, is simply perverse. We can’t wait. 

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“Scams don’t just steal people’s money, they can take their self-respect too, and those with mental health problems are three times more likely to be affected.

“After hearing excuse after excuse from the Government departments responsible for this legislation, I now turn to the Prime Minister and plead with him to take this opportunity to put paid-for scam ads in the Online Safety Bill – so big tech is responsible for what they’re paid to publish. Only then will they take it seriously and deny scammers the airtime.

“In some ways I regret the fact his face isn’t being used as well as mine and the other signatories of this letter. If it was, I doubt we’d be having such a difficulty persuading the Government of the importance of this.

“Failure to tackle this, and tackle it now, will betray his Government’s promise to create world-leading online protection and, more importantly, will cost more people their livelihoods, and their physical and mental health too.”

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, said: “We know there has been a sharp rise in scams since the start of the pandemic, and it’s deeply concerning that people may be tricked into parting with their money by someone pretending to be me. This is a global issue, and we are doing all we can to unmask scammers, but we can only do this by working together and ensuring the public are protected from these terrifyingly deceptive tactics. The Online Safety Bill is a positive step forward for the UK, but it’s essential that paid-for scam advertising is included as part of this new legislation.”

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Dragon’s Den investor Deborah Meaden said: “With the growing sophistication of online fraud, it has becoming glaringly obvious that the Government needs to now step in to stop criminals taking advantage of people and destroying their finances. 

“For too long, people have fallen victim to scams because they trusted that myself and others were behind these false ads. It’s not enough for us to warn people through the press and media, something needs to be done to stop the ads appearing in the first place. Online scam advertising must be regulated and it must be included in the Online Safety Bill.”

Duncan Bannatyne OBE said: “Back in 2016, my name was used to promote a high-risk currency investment. This carried on for a while and then the scammers moved on to other celebrities, reportedly including Richard Branson, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones.

“It is outrageous that there are few regulatory powers to curb this type of criminal behaviour and I fully support the call to the Prime Minister for paid-for scam advertising to be urgently included in the upcoming Online Safety Bill. Too many innocent people have lost money and too many well-known people have had their identities used in this erroneous way.”

(Lead image: Virgin Group)

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Energy

New research reveals the top ways Brits are trying to keep a lid on soaring household energy prices

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From going to bed earlier to taking quicker showers and using a slow cooker instead of an oven – GoCompare reveals the measures people are taking to try and save on their energy bills at home

New research from GoCompare Energy has found that 83% of bill payers have seen their energy costs increase since the cost of gas and electricity has gone up exponentially.

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The research, which also asked more than 2100 people how they’re trying to curb costs around the home in light of these increased costs, shows that over two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed have started turning off the lights when they leave a room, making it the top measure people are taking to save money in the home. Other tactics included going to bed earlier, using the tumble dryer less and doing laundry at night.

Of the list of options provided, the top ten ways people are trying to save on their energy costs around the home were:

1Turning off lights when they leave the room                             64%
2Turning off appliances when they’re not being used / in standby mode54%
3Not filling the kettle to the top                             45%
4Washing clothes on a lower heat setting                             39%
5Having quicker showers                             36%
6Changing light bulbs to LED bulbs28%
7No longer using the tumble dryer                             24%
8Making the house more energy efficient                             19%
9Going to bed earlier                             18%
10Using the slow cooker instead of the oven                             17%

Just 10% of those asked said that they weren’t implementing any of the energy saving measures listed in the survey.

Other ways people are looking to save on their energy costs included doing the laundry at night(16%) visiting friends and family more (8%), spending more time in the office (5%), and 5% of people say they’re getting solar panels fitted.

Gareth Kloet, of GoCompare Energy, said on the findings: “With 83% of people feeling the impact of rising energy costs, it’s no wonder that lifestyle habits around the home will have been impacted. Some of these measures will undoubtedly help to keep increased costs to a minimum but there are obviously limits to the changes that people can make.

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“With the warmer weather hopefully on its way, we are now approaching the time of year when people traditionally use less energy, and some people may be feeling like there’s a bit of breathing space before the colder weather sets in again. But it’s important to remember that these habits can only be a good thing longer term – not just when it comes to saving on your bills, but also on the environment.

“If the market does return to some sort of normality and we start to see energy costs decrease, we would absolutely recommend that people continue with some of these changes longer term. Being aware of the way that energy is consumed in the house can only be a good thing and will be important to maintain even after things have improved in the market.”

For some other tips on how to save energy, visit this guide: https://www.gocompare.com/gas-and-electricity/guide/energy-saving-tips/

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Business

Gender pay gap: New research shows Swansea one of the fairest places in UK for women’s pay

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woman wearing white shirt

A new study reveals the UK’s fairest, best and worst places to work as a woman, compared to how much men are paid – with Swansea coming out 4th fairest in the UK.

The research, carried out by www.income-tax.co.uk, used the latest data available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to analyse the differences in median annual pay for male and female full-time workers in 321 districts across the UK.

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The district of Arun, in the heart of the country’s south coast, is the most gender-balanced workplace in the UK. On average, men in Arun have an annual income of £26,740, whereas women get £26,694 per year – £40 more than their male counterparts. That represents only a 0.15% pay difference.

Swansea comes in 4th fairest in the UK just behind Sunderland (2nd) and North East Derbyshire (3rd). On average men in Swansea have an annual salary of £28,525, with women earning £163 more a year with an average salary of £28,688.

While most of the places in the top 10 fall behind in terms of the UK’s average gross annual salary of £31,285, except for Stirling, they do make up in gender equality. Male and female wages in these 10 places only vary by up to £500 a year.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference male-female av. salaries (£)*How much more men are paid than women (%)*
1Arun26,65426,694-40-0.15
2Sunderland26,63526,593420.16
3North East Derbyshire26,74026,691490.18
4Swansea28,52528,688-163-0.57
5Southend-on-Sea28,95229,185-233-0.80
6Stirling32,25832,722-464-1.44
7Tunbridge Wells27,94227,5244181.50
8Dumfries and Galloway27,20727,627-420-1.54
9Thanet26,44226,0144281.62
10Bedford29,62929,1334961.67

*negative value means women are paid more than men

Top 10 best workplaces for women

The area that inspired Jane Austen to pen some of her most well-known novels is now the best paying place for women to work in compared to men. Females working full-time in East Hampshire earn an average £4,086 more than males.

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Chorley and Conwy are the second and third, respectively, best paid places for women to earn more than men. Here, female full-timers earn almost three thousand pounds more than males.

The two places could not be more different in terms of their economic backgrounds. Historically, Chorley grew most after the Industrial Revolution, host to many important cotton mills, while Conwy is home to one of Kind Edward I’s castles. US Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently visited Chorley for the 2021 G7 Speakers’ summit, which gave the local economy an immediate boost.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference female-male av. salaries (£)How much more women are paid than men (%)
1East Hampshire28,08732,1734,08614.55
2Chorley25,28528,2582,97311.76
3Conwy24,63427,4692,83511.51
4Rushcliffe29,60932,7203,11110.51
5Gwynedd25,50127,9902,4899.76
6South Oxfordshire32,86135,9643,1039.44
7Burnley21,48323,4331,9509.08
8North Ayrshire30,76233,1482,3867.76
9Ceredigion27,01628,5801,5645.79
10Carmarthenshire28,30029,5481,2484.41

Top 10 worst workplaces for women

At the opposite extremity of the gender pay gap is South Derbyshire – by far the worst offender. While deemed as one of the best places to live in England, women here only get about half of what men are paid. The data from the ONS suggests that, while men’s yearly salaries average to £33,967, women in South Derbyshire earn only £17,484. This is in high contrast to its county fellow North East Derbyshire, mentioned earlier, which ranks as the third fairest-paying place in the UK for both men and women.

As charming as its landscapes may be, Mole Valley paints a grim picture when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. Surprisingly, according to income-tax.co.uk, Mole Valley, is the UK’s eighth best paid place to work in, yet it fails to pay women anywhere near as much as men. While male full-timers rake in £49,222 per year on average, women in this Surrey district get 40.52% less.

The stunning island chain of Outer Hebrides on the north west coast of Scotland, also known as the Western Isles or Na h-Eileanan Siar in Scottish Gaelic, trails right behind as the third worst for gender pay equality. Women get around a third less than men.

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With only 29,000 living in Outer Hebrides, the islands rely heavily on tourism. Attracting roughly 219,000 visitors every year, tourism directly supports around a thousand jobs and hundreds of local businesses on the islands. Unfortunately, men rip most of the benefits, 38.36% more than women, to be precise. The average woman working in Outer Hebrides earns £21,518 a year, whereas men have an annual income of £34,911.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference male-female av. salaries (£)How much more men are paid than women (%)
1South Derbyshire33,96717,48416,48348.53
2Mole Valley49,22229,27619,94640.52
3Na h-Eileanan Siar34,91121,51813,39338.36
4Dartford43,00926,76516,24437.77
5Erewash32,56820,80711,76136.11
6Redditch37,02324,10512,91834.89
7Gosport39,23725,79713,44034.25
8North Hertfordshire38,94825,64913,29934.15
9Rugby42,54328,36514,17833.33
10East Cambridgeshire33,61122,44811,16333.21

A spokesperson for income-tax.co.uk commented on the findings: “Our research suggests that some of the fairest employers are not necessarily the richest. Quite the opposite, in fact – districts with high-paying jobs in general tend to pay women much less.

“The difference in wages for males and females in Mole Valley is quite remarkable. Considering they can afford to pay men almost 50k a year, it is surprising that they slash 20k for women working there.

“Arun, Sunderland and North East Derbyshire were a nice surprise and employers operating there should get more credit for offering virtually equal pay for men and women. It is very fitting that women in East Hampshire, home to Jane Austen in her last eight prolific years, would earn nearly 15% more than men – the biggest leap of all.”

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Carmarthenshire

Carmarthenshire has fifth highest energy bills in UK according to new data

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Carmarthenshire will be amongst the worst hit by soaring energy costs, as research reveals it has one of the highest energy bills in the whole of the UK.

Households in Carmarthenshire pay £958 to their energy bills every year – over £200 more than the average UK bill (£757) and over £500 more than the UK area with the cheapest bills: Tower Hamlets in London.

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The research, by insurance experts A-Plan Insurance used new ONS data to analyse the energy bills in every local authority in England and Wales, to discover which region had the highest energy bills, and would be worst affected by the 54% increase in energy bills in April.

The Isles of Scilly in Cornwall had the most expensive energy bills, coming in at an average of £1,227.

Ceredigion in Wales has the UK’s second-highest bills (£1,092), and Welsh areas such as Gwynedd (£1,016), Carmarthenshire (£958) and Powys (£953) also dominate the UK’s top ten most expensive areas for energy.

At the other end of the scale, Tower Hamlets in London enjoys the UK’s lowest energy bills, with residents paying just £423 a year towards energy – over £300 less than the UK average.

Newham in London is the UK’s second cheapest area for energy bills, with households paying £458 a year for their energy. The City of London, Hackney and Southwark also have significantly cheaper energy bills than the rest of the nation.

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A spokesperson for A-Plan Insurance commented on the findings: “Energy bills are already sky-high and with bills soaring by a predicted £600 in Spring, it is those homes which are least energy efficient which will suffer the most from rising bills, as escaping heat will mean that your heating system works harder to compensate for the lack of warmth, costing you more.

“The government is advocating heat pumps as a solution to soaring energy bills, but these will not be effective without proper floor insulation – which 65 percent of homes in the UK currently lack. While households can use some hacks to insulate their homes better, for example, buying inexpensive pipe insulation from a DIY store, unless something serious is done about the energy crisis, we will see many more households driven into poverty.

“Although the government is introducing an ‘Energy Bills Rebate’ where energy customers will have £200 knocked off their bills, this functions as more of a ‘loan’ or a ‘buy now pay later scheme’, according to Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, who points out that families will have to pay back the loan in equal instalments of £40 a year.

“Some energy suppliers offer hardship funds, where you can get up to £750 off your energy bills if you are living in fuel poverty, so if you are struggling, it’s worth checking if your supplier offers this”

UK’s most expensive areas for energy bills  

UK area  Rank  Average annual energy bill (£) 
Isles of Scilly 1,227 
Ceredigion 1,092 
Eden 1,056 
Gwynedd 1,016 
Carmarthenshire 958 
Powys 953 
Ryedale 939 
Pendle 937 
Derbyshire Dales 936 
Richmondshire 10 933 
UK average    757 

UK’s cheapest areas for energy bills  

UK area  Rank  Average annual energy bill (£)  
Tower Hamlets 423 
Newham 458 
City of London 474 
Hackney 486 
Southwark 504 
Islington 512 
Greenwich 527 
Dartford 539 
Lewisham 555 
Brent 10 556 
UK average    757 

(Lead image: Getty)

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