Google is warned to screen online finance adverts for scams
Fraud watchdog in Google legal threat: Web giant is warned to screen online finance adverts for scams
- Companies such as Google make millions from fraudsters who pay for adverts
- Online investment scams, backed by criminals, cheat customers out of money
- Britain’s fraud watchdog threatened legal action against Google to tackle scams
Britain’s City watchdog has threatened to take legal action against Google if it doesn’t do more to tackle online fraud.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has clashed with social media firms over adverts on their websites that tout investment schemes run by scammers.
The fraudulent adverts, offering products from high-return bonds to shares in firms such as Tesla, cheat customers out of their hard-earned cash – and in some cases their life savings.
Britain’s fraud watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, threatened legal action against Google if it doesn’t do more to tackle online scams. Pictured: Mark Steward, FCA director
The schemes are often backed by criminals who use the money to fund human trafficking and drug smuggling.
Appearing before the Commons Treasury committee, Mark Steward, FCA director of enforcement and market oversight, said that if Google did not vet advertisers more stringently, ‘we are going to have to do something about it in a more formal way’ – and confirmed that this could mean legal action.
Companies such as Google make millions of pounds every year from fraudsters who pay for advertising space.
The social media firms also pocket almost £600,000 annually from the FCA, which runs ads warning consumers about scams. ‘The irony is not lost on us,’ Mr Steward said.
He said companies such as Google must be made to check that adverts for investments are paid for by FCA-approved firms.
The Daily Mail’s Stamp Out Investment Fraud campaign urges the Government to take more action on online scams.
The Mail wants fraudulent adverts to be covered by the forthcoming Online Safety Bill, thereby giving internet giants a legal duty to check there is a legitimate firm behind the ads they run.
The Government says it will consider internet scams in its Online Advertising Programme, but Mr Steward said financial harm should be in the Online Safety Bill.
Tory MP Anthony Browne asked if Google was guilty of fraud, saying: ‘The legal definition is gaining financial advantage by deception, and Google is gaining a financial advantage and deceiving customers.’
Google said: ‘We have been working with the FCA for over a year to implement measures and are developing further restrictions to financial services advertising to tackle this issue. We have pledged £3.5million in advertising credits to public awareness campaigns.’
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