Google teams up with Stop Scams UK
Criminal gangs are using multiple malicious methods to scam UK consumers. These include phishing emails, spoof phone calls and texts, shopping scams and impersonation scams, as well as scam advertising on social media and search engines. According to UK Finance, in 2020 total fraud loss was £1.26bn.
Ronan Harris, vice president and MD of Google UK & Ireland, said in a blog post: “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.”
Existing members of Stop Scams UK include Barclays, TSB, HSBC, TalkTalk and Vodafone.
Google has pledged $5m in advertising credits to support public awareness campaigns informing the public about how to spot the tactics of scammers and avoid falling victim to fraud. The ads credits will be offered to cross-industry organisations already campaigning on this issue, as well as government bodies undertaking awareness campaigns.
Google says that during the next few months it will be developing and rolling out further restrictions to financial services advertising in the UK to protect consumers and legitimate advertisers.
The search engine has repeatedly been criticised for not removing scam ads which appear in search results.
But Google says that over the past year it introduced several verification processes to learn more about the advertisers and their business operations. During the verification period, it pauses advertiser accounts if their advertising or business practices are suspected of causing harm.
It says it has now updated its ‘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.
Globally, Google has also introduced new advertiser identity verification and began rolling this out across the UK 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.
Ashley Hart, head of fraud at TSB, said: “We are pleased to see Google become the first tech company to join banks and telcos in the fight against fraud. The vast majority of scams we refund result from online platforms – so collaborating across sectors will be key. It’s vital that other tech companies now follow suit to help bring a halt to the UK’s fastest growing crime.”
The move by Google comes as a coalition of organisations urges the government to include online scams in the upcoming Online Safety Bill.