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New scam advert alert system launched to target online fraud

By Martyn Landi
A new system to find and remove bogus adverts from the internet has launched in the UK.

The UK Scam Ad Alert system has been launched by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) with support from digital ad platforms and tech giants such as Facebook and Google.

The system will allow people to report scam adverts which appear in paid-for spaces online to the ASA, who will then circulate details of the ad, remove it and suspend the advertiser’s account where possible.

The ASA said the system was being launched because of ongoing concerns about scam adverts online and the financial harm that they cause, particularly cryptocurrency-related fraud.

According to figures from the UK Financial Conduct Authority and Action Fraud, in 2018/19, victims of crypto and forex investment scams lost more than £27 million in total.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “The overwhelming majority of ads responsibly inform and entertain their audience, but a small minority are published with criminal intent.

“Our Scam Ad Alert system will play an important part in helping detect and disrupt these types of scams.

“By working closely with our partners such as Google and Facebook we can act quickly to have problem ads taken down as part of our ongoing work to better protect consumers online.”

IAB chief executive Jon Mew added that while the new scheme would not eradicate the issue of scam advertising, it would help with better policing of it.

“While there is no silver bullet solution to combating scam ads, the launch of the ASA’s new system, in collaboration with a number of our members, is a significant step towards helping tackle the issue and shows what can be achieved at a cross-industry level.

“This initiative takes a joined-up approach to remove scam ads and will play an important role in improving the online ecosystem for both advertisers and consumers.

“It needs to be utilised alongside law enforcement to address the underlying illegitimate activity behind these ads.”

Earlier this month, the head of economic crime at the City of London Police told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee that digital firms needed to do more to stop the spread of online fraud.

Commander Karen Baxter said “stronger engagement” from social media giants was needed on the issue, and said protections around online fraud should be included in the Government’s proposed Online Harms legislation.

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