Watchdog clamps down on scam ads with online reporting site

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Customers that come across scam ads online will be able to report them to a State-backed system for the first time from today. The UK Scam Ad Alert System will allow internet users to flag bogus ads by providing details like the ad’s web address and content. The system is […]

Customers that come across scam ads online will be able to report them to a State-backed system for the first time from today.

The UK Scam Ad Alert System will allow internet users to flag bogus ads by providing details like the ad’s web address and content.

The system is being headed up by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

While most big internet services like Amazon and Facebook Marketplace already employ their own scam prevention methods, the new alert system will allow the details of the fake ads to be shared among all platforms that could be affected.

Once reported, the ASA will circulate the advertiser’s details, remove the ad, and suspend the perpetrators account if possible.

The launch follows a three-month pilot by the ASA and the IAB, which allowed the system to alert platforms and publishers to paid-for scam ads. Fake ads were taken down within two days on average during the trial period.

The system was launched in response to ongoing concerns about the rise of fake ads, many of which were linked to investments in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The ads often used fake stories or doctored images of celebrities.

Over the last two years Britons collectively lost around £27m in crypto and forex investment scams, according to figures from the Financial Conduct Authority.

The ASA’s new system, which is backed by the likes of Facebook and Google, will boast a quick-reporting form that will allow sites to act quickly to remove the content.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said that a “small minority” of online ads were published with criminal intent.

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

IAB chief Jon Mew said that there was “no silver bullet” to combatting scam ads but that the new system was a “significant step” towards tackling the issue.

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

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