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Consumers don’t trust online finance ads

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

More than half of internet users (53%) don’t trust that the adverts on search engines are placed by legitimate financial services companies, according to Aviva.

The Aviva Fraud Report found that more than half (56%) of consumers don’t believe that search engines verify the authenticity of the financial product, service, or provider before allowing adverts on the platform.

It also found that almost nine in 10 (87%) people think government should legislate to ensure search engines and social media sites do not mislead consumers or promote financial scams.

A similar number (85%) of people think search engines should be responsible for advertising content on their platforms so that it is not misleading.

Aviva is one of a growing number of firms and organisations calling on the government to include financial scams promoted by paid-for adverts in the scope of the Online Safety Bill

It found there is a significant difference in trust by age. Those over 55 were much less likely to trust the results of a search engine than those aged 16 to 24; only 29% of over 55s were likely to trust search engine ads compared to 59% of 16 to 24-year-olds.

Rob Lee, director of fraud prevention at Aviva, said: “There is a clear mistrust of financial services adverts online. However, there is no legal responsibility for technology firms to verify the legitimacy of the companies which pay them to publish adverts on their platforms. This potentially leaves millions of internet users exposed to unscrupulous adverts.

“We believe the Online Safety Bill presents an opportunity to protect financial services consumers at every stage of their online journey. We welcome the recent inclusion of user-generated fraud – such as that promoted on social media sites – within the scope of the regulatory framework. We support the financial services industry in calling for the legislation to include financial scams promoted by paid-for adverts.”

The Aviva Fraud Report also found that lockdown has transformed spending habits in the UK and accelerated adoption of the internet. Half (50%) of people said they used the internet more to search for products and services over the past year.

While the types of financial scams are generally the same as those before the pandemic, coronavirus has been used as the hook to lure victims.

Aviva’s research found two-in-five (42%) people have been targeted by a Covid-19 scam. This is a 91% increase over the past year in the number of people who reported receiving emails, texts, phone calls and other communications mentioning coronavirus, and which were suspected to be a financial scam.

Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?, said: “Consumers should feel safe online, yet too often major search engines that we interact with every day fail to protect their users from scams, the impact of which can be financially and emotionally devastating.

“Which? research has repeatedly found that online platforms are leaving their users worryingly exposed to scams, despite having some of the most sophisticated technology in the world that should enable them to better protect consumers.

“Relying on online platforms to put in place effective prevention measures themselves has not worked. The government must urgently give online platforms the legal responsibility, through the draft Online Safety Bill, to prevent, identify and remove fake and fraudulent content on their sites, including the avalanche of adverts and websites used by scammers.”