Should tech companies reimburse victims of online scams?

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Technological Dynamics

Technology has been a key component of the social-economic aspect of our day-to-day lives. Since the invention of the internet in 1983, technology has significantly transformed lives. We perform most of our daily activities online and every day as we seek better technologies to enhance our online processes.

As we enjoy the benefits of the internet and modern technologies, we cannot forget the associated cybersecurity risks. While all technologies are affected by cybersecurity risks in one way or another, the threats may vary.

Over the years, online scams have grown exponentially prompting regulations and legislation to protect users. Online scammers use technologies like social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and LinkedIn, email, and other online messaging platforms. 

Some of the most common online scams are;

     Phishing: It involves the use of fake websites that pretend to be legitimate to collect your personal information such as credit card numbers, passwords, and bank information. Scammers send links to phishing websites via email and online messaging platforms. Despite their popularity, it is surprising how online users continue to fall victim to phishing attacks.

     Fake antivirus software: If you’re browsing the web and all of a sudden you get a pop-up saying that your computer is now infected, chances are it’s an online scam. Once you click on such pop-ups you download malware into your device and cybercriminals can use them to carry out their malicious activities including scams.

     Make money easy and fast scam: We’d all like to make easy money quickly, and cybercriminals use that to prey on unsuspecting users. Cyber Criminals lure you in with false promises to end up stealing your personal information or funds or both.

     Fake shopping websites and formjacking: Criminals may design websites that mimic popular e-commerce sites. Some users fall victim to such sites as products on sale are usually sold at very low prices. Formjacking entails hacking into legitimate e-commerce platforms and predicting customers to different URLs that closely resemble the actual website.

     Tech support scam: Tech support impersonators contact users informing them that their devices have been infected after which they proceed to instruct them to download applications that give attackers remote access to the target computer.

This is a statistical fact about cybercrimes – social media cybercrimes collect a whopping $3.25 billion annually. Sadly, this figure will probably increase in the coming years if proper measures are not put into place. The 3 billion-dollar question that we need to ask is: Should tech companies reimburse victims of online scams?

In some countries, legislation has been passed to ensure that victims of bank fraud are fully refunded in cases where the victims did enough to protect themselves. For instance, bank fraud victims are protected by the Payment Services Regulations in the UK. On the other hand, there are no adequate measures devised to deal with online scams.

UK lawmakers are working on a plan to make tech firms pay for social media scams. The central tenet of the matter is tech companies that push advertisements for these scams should be made to reimburse victims.

It is true to say that governments have failed to enact efficient laws to protect innocent victims. Social media users quietly lose money to online scammers and have nowhere to report. Pushing social media companies to reimburse victims is a good way to protect the public.


Enforcing such laws is easier said than done. This is not to say that governments cannot work with social media firms to come to an understanding. Social media platforms run on user-generated content.

Notably, most of the major social media companies are headquartered in the United States and are protected by a particular section of the Constitution. Section 230 of the United States Constitution says that no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Since social media scammers publish misleading and false information to lure clients, it is hard to hold these companies accountable – after all the information is generated by third parties.

Another challenge is difficulty in differentiating scams from legitimate content. Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms used to flag offensive content are not 100 percent effective. Mind you it is far much easier to identify offensive content as compared to online scams. 

Role of government

Governments ought to pass laws to protect online users from scammers. One way is to pass legislation that requires social media firms to terminate accounts belonging to users who publish information that propagates online scams. This can be a huge step towards protecting online scam victims.

Also, lawmakers should enforce policies that fine social media companies for promoting ads that result in online scams. Most social media platforms make money through advertisements. Ergo, they don’t enforce stringent measures to filter for such ads. These policies can significantly reduce such incidents. 

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