Over the last few years, people in the U.K. have been targeted by increasingly sophisticated scammers on and offline. According to UK Finance, in 2020, total fraud loss was £1.26 billion. Criminal gangs are using multiple malicious methods, including phishing emails, spoof phone calls and texts, shopping scams and impersonation scams, as well as scam advertising on social media and search engines.
Joining efforts to collaborate across industries
Tackling the scale of this problem requires collaboration across government, the financial services industry, the telecommunications industry, the tech industry and law enforcement. To play our part in this effort, we have become the first major technology company to join Stop Scams UK and will develop and share best practices with existing members from financial services and telecoms industries.
We also understand the importance of ensuring people are informed about how to spot the tactics of scammers and avoid falling victim to fraud, which is why we have pledged $5 million in advertising credits to support public awareness campaigns. The ads credits will be offered to cross-industry organisations already campaigning on this issue, as well as government bodies undertaking awareness campaigns.
Strengthening measures to protect U.K. consumers
As well as better equipping people to spot a scam, we know how vital it is to protect people from fraud. Over the next few months we will be developing and rolling out further restrictions to financial services advertising in the UK to protect consumers and legitimate advertisers.
The new measures build on significant work we have done to date to help stop financial scammers in the U.K., working closely with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority):
- In early 2020, we worked with the FCA to receive notifications when additions are made to the FCA warning list. There are more than 4,000 websites on the warning list.
- Over the past year, we introduced several verification processes to learn more about the advertisers and their business operations. During the verification period, we pause advertiser accounts if their advertising or business practices are suspected of causing harm. We are currently requiring all UK financial services advertisers to complete these programs in order to run ads.
- We updated our unreliable claims policy to restrict the rates of return a firm can advertise and ban the use of terms that make unrealistic promises of large financial return with minimal risk, effort or investment.
- We recently undertook a review of user experiences that tend to be targeted in the UK by bad actors and have introduced further restrictions, preventing ads from showing on those searches.
Globally, Google has also introduced new advertiser identity verification and rolled this out across the U.K. beginning earlier this year. Advertisers now need to submit personal legal identification, business incorporation documents or other information that proves who they are and the country in which they operate. This means Google can more effectively determine bad actors in the ecosystem from the start.
Ready to respond to evolving scammer tactics
At Google, thousands of people work around the clock to deliver a safe experience for users, creators, publishers and advertisers. Our teams use a mix of technology, including sophisticated machine learning, and human review to enforce our policies. This combination of technology and talent means policy violations can be spotted and action can be taken to remove bad ads.
Our teams are working hard on this issue because we all want U.K. consumers to feel safe and protected when they are managing their finances. Even as attempts by scammers evolve, we will continue to take strong action and work in partnership with others to help keep consumers safe.