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City watchdog pays Google £600k for adverts in war on scammers 

City watchdog pays Google £600k of taxpayers’ money on adverts in war on scammers

The City watchdog spent almost £600,000 of taxpayers’ money on Google adverts last year as it tried to warn consumers about internet scams.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is locked in a battle over advertising space with fraudsters, who are also splashing out millions of pounds every year on Google and other sites to promote their dodgy schemes.

It means that Google is making money both from the fraudsters paying to advertise their scams as well as financial regulators warning about them.

The Financial Conduct Authority is locked in a battle with fraudsters, who are splashing out millions of pounds every year on Google and other sites to promote their dodgy schemes

The work and pensions committee of MPs has said it is ‘immoral’ that tech companies profit from adverts posted online by scammers.

But internet titans have no obligation to check whether financial products being advertised on their sites are legitimate – or even whether the firm paying for the space is regulated by the FCA.

The Mail is calling for web giants to be made legally responsible for blocking and removing scams from their platforms.

The Stamp Out Investment Fraud campaign, launched last week, calls for this to be part of the Online Safety Bill. 

The bill, due to be included in the Queen’s Speech today, covers child safety, bullying and extremist content– but it excludes online financial fraud. 

Under pressure from the Mail and other campaigners, ministers are understood to be becoming more receptive to including financial harms in the bill, and may even change it during pre-legislative scrutiny to cover scams.

Figures obtained by the Mail will pile pressure on ministers to act.

The FCA spent a total of £572,814 in 2020 on Google adverts warning of issues from investment scams to loan fee fraud as it attempts to cope with the ‘pandemic’ of crooks promoting their schemes on social media sites and search engines.

Consumers are being lured in by anything from high-return bonds to low-cost loans they never receive – and may even be drawn in by fraudsters who have ‘copied’ a legitimate website from the likes of Aviva or Hargreaves Lansdown.

Matt Burton, chief risk officer at wealth management firm Quilter which had its site cloned by scammers, said: ‘The rate of increase in scamming is reaching pandemic proportions. 

‘We do need people to stand up to the internet companies to ask them to police their own face of the internet.

‘At the minimum, once the search engines have been tipped off about a scam, the bogus sites should be taken down. It should be ‘act first and ask questions later’, not the other way around.’