Last year, the City watchdog spent nearly £600,000 of taxpayers’ money on Google ads to alert consumers about online scams.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is fighting fraudsters for ad space on Google and other websites, where they spend millions of pounds each year to promote their dubious schemes.
It indicates that Google profits from both the scammers who pay to advertise their schemes and the financial regulators who warn people about them.
MPs on the work and pensions committee have declared it ‘immoral’ for tech companies to benefit from fraudsters’ online ads.
However, internet behemoths are under no obligation to verify the legitimacy of financial products advertised on their sites, or even whether the firm paying for space is regulated by the FCA.
According to a source, web giants will be held legally accountable for obstructing and removing fraudsters from their platforms.
Last week, the Stamp Out Investment Fraud campaign called for this to be included in the Online Safety Bill.
The bill, which is expected to be included in today’s Queen’s Speech, addresses child safety, bullying, and extremist content – but not online financial fraud.
Ministers are reportedly being more receptive to including financial harms in the bill, and it may alter it during pre-legislative scrutiny to cover fraudsters, following pressure from campaigners.
As part of its efforts to combat the ‘pandemic’ of crooks promoting their schemes on social media sites and search engines, the FCA spent £572,814 on Google ads alerting of issues ranging from investment scams to loan fee fraud in 2020.
Consumers may be drawn in by crooks who have ‘copied’ a legitimate website from the likes of Aviva or Hargreaves Lansdown, and may even be drawn in by high-return bonds or low-cost loans they never receive.