Google’s new checks must be able to weed out fakes like this bogus FCA page for an investment scam (Image: DAILY MIRROR)
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In what I truly hope will turn out to be a huge victory for the campaign against online scams, Google has announced a long overdue clampdown on dodgy adverts that target savers.
Currently anyone searching online for products such as ISAs and savings bonds is hit with Google Ads that are pushed to the top of search results.
These often break Google’s own rules by not identifying the advertiser and lead to websites designed to steal your money.
Google doesn’t just rake in cash from the crooked adverts, it makes more money from the Financial Conduct Authority, which last year paid £573,000 to place online ads warning about the scams.
Now Google says that from August 30 it will only accept investment adverts from businesses that are registered with the FCA, or are covered by certain exemptions.
“Today’s announcement reflects significant progress in delivering a safer experience for users, publishers and advertisers,” said its UK managing director, Ronan Harris.
“While we understand this policy update will impact a range of advertisers in the financial services space, our utmost priority is to keep users safe on our platforms – particularly in an area targeted by fraudsters.
“We are committed to leading on necessary changes to help fight online scammers.”
The success or otherwise of the new rules will depend on how thoroughly Google vets advertisers who claim to be authorised by the regulator because crooks, unsurprisingly, routinely set up websites falsely claiming FCA cover.
A persistent example is investment ads that claim to be placed by a company called Quadreen Investment Management (UK) Limited.
Incomebonds.co.uk, one of many sites that have claimed to be run by Quadreen Asset Management.
(Image: DAILY MIRROR)
The company is regulated by the FCA but the director, 72-year-old London solicitor Hamid Iqbal, tells me that the adverts using its name are nothing to do with him.
“I am grateful to you for alerting me to this, I had no knowledge my company was used by fraudsters,” he told me. “As soon as I knew I took all possible actions and will continue to do so by reporting matters to relevant authorities.”
A recent ad claiming to be placed by Quadreen is for the supposed bond comparison website fixedratebonds.uk.com.
If you input your details you would be contacted by a second outfit, LSE Equity.
“With over €500m in assets under management, LSE Equity has enabled thousands of investors worldwide to achieve extraordinary results through expertly curated funds,” it lies.
Its website lse-equity.co.uk has brazenly lifted the pictures of staff at genuine investment firm Moonfare.com to populate its bogus “who we are” page.
Pictures from Moonfare (above) were stolen and put on the fake LSE Equity website (below)
(Image: DAILY MIRROR)
Google's new checks must spot scams like LSE Equity that lie about being regulated by the FCA
(Image: DAILY MIRROR)
At the bottom of the home page, it says that LSE Equity is a trading name of TEK Investment Group Limited.
Clicking on the link in emails from this lot takes you to what appear to be Financial Conduct Authority pages showing LSE Equity and TEK Investment Group are both authorised by theregulator.
These are fakes.
The real web address of the FCA register begins register.fca.org.uk. The crooks’ version begins registryfca.org – they’re hoping that not everyone will spot that this is not the real thing.
Anyone who does check on the real FCA site will find no record of LSE Equity or TEK Investment Group. The latter does exist but it is not in the business of selling savings bonds to the public, it is a company that makes tyre emergency repair kits – hence the initials TEK – whose name been hijacked by scammers.
Google’s new advertising safeguards will be useful only if they’re capable of spotting cheats, liars and impostors like these.