BIG tech firms such as Google and Facebook are making huge profits letting crooks advertise bogus financial products that can lead victims to lose their life savings.
They carelessly fail to check if ads are genuine before publishing them – while watchdogs just stick their heads in the sand over the growing scandal.
Today we look at the fraudulent promises that big search engines and social media sites are paid to display – and what MUST be done to stop them.
We also tell you how to avoid being caught out by the con tricks.
Fake savings and investment ads
SAVERS who trust Google to help them find the best interest rates could end up transferring their money to crooks.
Bogus broker sites boasting of Isas and bonds that return up to 29 per cent appear as ads at the top of Google search results, research by Sun Money shows.
Dozens have already been reported and taken down this year but they are quickly replaced with new ones, campaigners warn.
Examples include sites such as fixedincome.org.uk, directfixedincome.com and fixedreturnbonds.co.uk which appeared when savings bonds were searched for.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued warnings about these sites and they are no longer live.
Campaigner Mark Taber, who has reported 100 bogus ads to Google this year, explains that many of the sites have the same template, which is copied from one web address to another.
He says: “It’s like the whack-a-mole game. My advice is never to use Google to search for investments or savings.”
Earnings from scams did, though, help drive up Google’s search revenue to £76billion last year.
Meanwhile, investment scams cost Brits £339million last year, with the FCA forced to spend £600,000 of taxpayers’ money on promoting its own warnings in the search results.
But the FCA has limited powers over Google because the search engine is based outside the UK, in the US.
Insurance scam ads
THOUSANDS of motorists are driving uninsured due to buying sham cover advertised on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Insurance scammers, known as ghost brokers, appear on social media claiming to offer fully comp policies from big brands such as Admiral, Hastings Direct, Aviva and Churchill.
Insurer Direct Line this week warned that ghost brokers either sell non-existent policies, use false information to secure a policy in someone’s name, or buy a legitimate policy, then cancel it while pocketing the refund.
In one case seen by the firm, a scammer offered the first five people to contact them a car insurance policy for just £200 – which is impossible to guarantee.
Many promise “£50 to refer a friend” to attract victims. Driving without valid insurance can bring a £300 fine and six penalty points.
Aviva detected 3,100 car insurance applications linked to fake policies last year and is investigating a further 4,000.
Crypto con ads
SHAM Bitcoin schemes are falsely claiming to have the backing of well-known people such as money guru Martin Lewis and TV chef Gordon Ramsay.
Microsoft was recently profiting from an ad wrongly claiming Ramsay had made millions from a company called Profit Bitcoin.
It removed it from the tech giant’s MSN news site following a complaint.
But The Sun had told how this same fake claim about Ramsay had tricked pensioner Mike Hildebrand and wife Dorothy, both 79, from Kent, out of around £40,000 of their savings.
Microsoft said it would remove fraudulent ads when it became aware of them.
Facebook was last year sued by savers’ guru Martin Lewis, founder of Money Saving Expert (MSE), for displaying scam ads claiming he had endorsed various crypto schemes, and the case was later settled out of court.
But MSE confirmed dodgy ads featuring Martin are still appearing on Facebook, and also now on the social media firm’s sister site Instagram.
How to stay safe online
- Steer clear of little-known savings and investments brokers that appear in Google Ads.
- Use Moneyfacts or Money.co.uk to look for savings accounts. Or use a trusted price comparison site such as uSwitch for insurance.
- Check with the Financial Conduct Authority to see if a firm is authorised or registered with it before using them.
- Be wary of any ads promising sky-high returns. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t buy car insurance advertised by brokers on social media.
- Always contact your insurer directly after an accident. Never go through a claims management firm.
- Google, Facebook and other social media platforms to vet financial advertisers to ensure they are authorised by the regulator.
- Government to change the law to force them to do this.
- Sites to develop better detection systems to stop individuals from posting fraudulent adverts.
- Big platforms to donate revenue made from scam firms to victims of scams.
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