Labour MP for Newcastle Chi Onwurah wants a hard crackdown on websites pretending to official government sites, claiming the “rip off” the public.
Onwurah revealed her thoughts in a House of Commons debate about copycat websites, noting that although they are not always illegal, they often trick people into paying extra for services that should be cheaper or free of charge when purchased via official Whitehall channels.
The Labour MP emphasised that third-party websites such as the Post Office which processes the check and send service for passports are not to be criticised as they add value, but there are websites out there that exist simply to scan people.
She always wanted to stress the point that it is not just “digitally illiterate” people that are fooled by illegitimate websites.
“To give one example, a main in my constituency, who was actually comfortable using technology and the Internet, renewed a tax disc online,” Onwurah said.
“He used what he thought was an official website and was charged an extra fee. He not a vulnerable person – he was confidence about using the Internet and digital public services – but he was scammed by this copycat website,” she claimed.
Onwurah, who is a champion of Labour’s digital policies, expressed her concerns that with many public services heading in the direction of online only, work must be done to prevent people becoming victims of fraud.
“Technology offers us an unprecedented opportunity to transform public service delivery. We must ensure that opportunity is not undermined; we cannot afford to underestimate the possibility,” she claimed.
“Politicians must champion the positive power of technology and we must not allow emerging threats to stifle the huge opportunities that it offers us, socially, culturally and economically,” the MP added.