Money Box

Financial Scam Websites

Money Box podcast transcription where a listener says who had £28,000 stolen from her account, because Google still lets crooks advertise on its search pages. And the regulator doesn’t stop them,

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

fca, adverts, money, google, scam, regulator

SPEAKERS

Paul Lewis, Mark Taber, Carol Supier, Dan Whitworth

Transcription

Paul Lewis

Google is still allowing crooks to advertise dodgy investments and websites. That’s despite telling this programme in January that it was working with the Financial Conduct Authority to protect consumers from misleading paid for adverts on its site being used by thieves to scam victims. Google told us the issue was a priority I quote, but a few days ago, we were contacted by a listener saying she had been targeted just a few weeks ago, Money Box reporter Dan Whitworth is here, Dan.

Dan Whitworth

Well, Paul, the listener we’ve been speaking to is Carol Supier and in April she went online to research somewhere to invest her savings. A comparison website ISAfinder dot co.uk came up top of her Google search results. unbeknown to Carol. It was actually an advert which fraudsters had paid to come top of her search results. So Carol typed in some details and very soon she was called by a man from JP Morgan and chase Co. Now that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s very close to a legitimate company. JP Morgan Chase Bank, when in actual fact, is what’s known as a cloned company set up by criminals. They then targeted and groomed Carol and tricked her into transferring £28,000 of her savings into what she thought was an ISA. A couple of weeks later, she was contacted by her Building Society Nationwide, and told her the £28,000 had in fact, been stolen.

Carol Supier

I just said to the guy, I really don’t believe this. And he said, Well, ma’am, you better believe it because it’s true. I felt ashamed. I felt cheated. I felt saddened that all my hard earned money. These people just think it’s okay to come and take it. How dare they? How dare they think it’s okay to cheat people, the scum of the earth. That’s what they are.

Paul Lewis

And Dan, what about Google? What’s its role in all of this?

Dan Whitworth

Well, the way many criminals are able to target victims in the first place is by placing adverts on Google. So if you search online using phrases like for example, best return on investment, best interest rates, that kind of thing. You’ll have a big long list of results that come up very often at the top of those lists and not results at all, but paid for adverts. Now Carol now knows the one she clicked on was run by fraudsters who now thanks to Google, letting them advertise had her in their sights.

Carol Supier

Well, I think is disgusting. I didn’t even know people have to pay money to Google to advertise. I would have thought everybody has to go through a process where they’re asked questions scrutinised, really, and do they look into these people’s credentials? Now that they are actually running a legitimate business, or do they just take their word and take the money? And that’s it.

Paul Lewis

Well, that’s Google. Dan, what about the FCA, the regulator? Where does that fit into policing these scams?

Dan Whitworth

Well, back in January, the Treasury told us the FCA does have the power to stop this kind of thing from happening. It can launch prosecutions, it can issue warnings. But clearly, whatever it’s doing isn’t working is there is still more and more victims like Carol having money stolen from them right now.

Carol Supier

I don’t believe the FCA are doing a good enough job. How are they protecting us? This happened to me three weeks ago. How are these people allowed to advertise without going through any form of scrutiny? I don’t know what can be done, but they should be doing more to protect innocent people like myself, who have actually worked for the money that we are investing for our future.

Paul Lewis

Now strong views. They’re down by Carol, what have Google and the FCA had to say to you about all this,

Dan Whitworth

The first line of the FCA statement it says we’ve been working to persuade Google to take action in three areas they want Google to refuse promotions from companies, which appear on the FCA’s warning list. Ones placed by firms, the FCA doesn’t authorise. And finally to remove lead generation advertising. Now the FCA says it doesn’t have the power to direct search engines to stop advertising online scams. It also says most of these ads don’t have a legitimate address or presence in the UK, which the FCA say makes criminal prosecutions not possible.

Paul Lewis

And Google what’s its view?

Dan Whitworth

Well, Google, Google told us about the billions of bad ads it took down last year and how it will continue to work closely with the FCA to find more comprehensive ways to protect consumers during this period. That’s very similar to what it told us in January. Google also said is planning to start rolling out a requirement that advertisers go through what it calls an identity verification programme in order to continue to advertise on it. In the UK, and that’ll roll out from early next year.

Paul Lewis

Well stay with us, Dan. We’re joined by Mark Taber. He’s a consumer campaigner and former chartered accountant. And Mark Taber, that verification programme that Google says it’s going to introduce what would that work? Would it stop this?

Mark Taber

Well, there haven’t been many details released yet. And Google haven’t sent any to me, despite me having met with them. I’ve had a quick look. And they’re talking about having a 30 day period of grace, which means that efforts will still be running during that 30 days. And most of these scammers like the ones that Carol got caught by and they only run each scam for about two weeks and they close that one down and start up a new website and advert cloning another bank or investment firm, so I can’t see it working and also it won’t ensure that the adverts themselves and the advertisers are complying with UK law designed to protect consumers against things like this, such as having FCA authorization or approving the adverts.

Paul Lewis

Yeah, so it’s not going to check, they’re on the FCA register or anything like that. But the FCA says that it can’t do much about this because they’re not based in the UK where of course, its remit runs.

Mark Taber

Well, I can’t really see how that can be the case because all of these scammers are actually stealing people’s money. And to do that they’re using UK bank accounts, which must have been through UK bank, anti money laundering processes. They’ve also got UK operatives, they’re phoning people up, and they’ve got websites with UK domains. Now any law enforcement agency could go to banks, Internet companies, telephone service providers, and get the details. You know, me and others can work out quite quickly who’s behind these things. And there aren’t actually that many gangs doing it. It’s the same gangs repeating it time and time again, and was just there not being stopped.

Paul Lewis

What do you make of the FCA saying that it’s got it wants to persuade Google to do things Surely, it’s a regulator can’t tell them to do things. These are regular verbs or should be

Mark Taber

Well, there is a problem with the law in the UK and the government needs to address this urgently in that online platforms aren’t regulated in the same way as traditional media is. That’s true. On the other hand, I think the FCA could be a lot firmer with Google here. Certainly legal advice I’ve seen says that where the FCA has asked Google to take action against a certain advertiser or adverts and Google hasn’t done it, then the FCA you could for example, so you can injunction against them to stop them doing it. And I believe that the same gangs are behind most of these scam adverts, they do it time and time again and have been doing it for years, and no one stopped them.

Paul Lewis

And you know that mark, because you’ve you’ve been a quite a student of these things, and you’ve reported hundreds of them to the FCA this year alone what’s happened as a result of your reports.

Mark Taber

Well, I’ve reported nearly 300 the FCA since January this year. The FCA can be very, very slow to act on my report. And they should be taking me seriously because I know how much work I do on it and I’ve met with them about it. So if they’re not taking me seriously then who are they taking seriously and for example, the the site or the scammer that Carol was called by. I first reported yesterday on the 30th of January. And I think Carol was scammed in April. And I’ve just looked today in one of their sites that the FCA have since warned about in May, I think they warned is still up and running, which shows how ineffective what the FCA does is, I mean, simply putting a warning up may eventually persuade Google to take down an advert but it doesn’t stop the scammer just setting up a new site a new advert the same day and carrying on the scan or another scam.

Paul Lewis

So that’s that’s the FCA, which you seem to think is being pretty ineffective. But of course, if you report this to Google as well, which I understand you do, it could stop it immediately, couldn’t it?

Mark Taber

Yes, Google couldn’t should stop these immediately. You know, they say that they have billions of adverts, and I think that speaks in itself because it They’ve got billions of adverts Just think how much money they’re making from the billions of adverts. And this isn’t a new problem. I mean, this start this has been going on since at least 2016. London capital and finance which scam people out of nearly 250 million pounds was promoted using fake ISA sites advertising on Google who made 25 million pounds out of it. And I think the mind speaks for itself here Google are dragging their feet it’s been going on for years and they’re not dealing with it. They could easily employ someone to vet these adverts. I’d do it for them I’ve offered

Paul Lewis

and they won’t do it at a reasonable price I’m sure. Mark given that going to change as far as you can see in the immediate future, what can individuals do to protect themselves briefly?

Mark Taber

Well, I think it’s very hard to Pete for people to actually recognise what’s a scam site. Even the old adage if it looks too good to be true. It probably is doesn’t work with these clever impersonation scams, because they they list genuine banks and accounts and people fall for it. So first of all, don’t use Google to look for any investment savings or ISA products, don’t respond to any emails about it and hang up if someone cold calls you asking to discuss savings investments or pensions.

Paul Lewis

Mike Taylor. Thanks very much. Now, we did of course invite the Financial Conduct Authority and Google to come on the programme, but those refused as they did when we asked them earlier this year, but Dan finally, what happened to Carol and the £28,000 that was stolen from her?

Dan Whitworth

Well, good news on that poll. It turns out that the Barclays account she was told to transfer the money to had already been flagged as suspicious and had been frozen so although Carol didn’t know it, her money wasn’t going anywhere. But Carol was told nothing about this by Nationwide for four weeks she thought her money was lost only this week after prompting by moneybox did nationwide tell her she will get her £28,000 back, but nationwide insisted the loss was her fault and would not have been reimbursed. have the money not been found.

Paul Lewis

But she’s getting it back. Thanks very much Dan.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000k1dj  

[problems with this link? try login in as we may have an alternative]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *