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Google steps up fight against fraudulent investment ads

It will ‘ban the use of terms that make unrealistic claims’ on its platform

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Tech giant Google has written to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to set out several changes in its policies aimed at countering the number of fraudulent financial advertisement on its search engine.

This comes over a year after International Adviser revealed that the regulator and the US firm were working together to find ways to stop unauthorised investment companies from promoting scams on Google’s platform.

Over the last 12 months, the internet giant has taken several steps to tighten its control over the fraudulent ads.

Ronan Harris, managing director for Google UK & Ireland, said in the letter that the company added verification processes “to better know our customers” and to make sure they are “meeting the needs of Google search users”.

“Working together over the past year, our teams have approached this issue holistically; sharing information and expertise which has informed new Google Ads policies and increased enforcement by our trust and safety teams,” he added.

Changes and updates

In July 2020, Google updated its financial services policy requiring advertisers to complete a business operations verification process. This asks firms to provide information on their business model, services offered and relationships with other brands and third parties.

In December 2020, Google paused firms’ accounts until they have completed their verification process.

Additionally, advertisers will need to submit personal legal identification, business incorporation documents and other information to show who they are, Harris explained.

The data will be used to create “in-ad disclosures” where users can see the name and location of the company behind the adverts, for which the UK is the first country these procedures will apply to.

Language

Google has also tightened the use of language within financial ads.

Harris said: “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 claims. This update prohibits making unrealistic promises of large financial return with minimal risk, effort or investment.

“We know that our adversaries are sophisticated and dynamic and so we believe a layered approach, incorporating a spectrum of verification along with other tactics to locate and remove bad actors, is important.

“Just as we are learning and iterating on our approach so too are these bad actors. That is why continuously evaluating our methods and solutions is so important, so that we can continue to improve the efficacy of our policies.”

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