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Google clamps down on financial fraud with new ad restrictions

The move comes after it was revealed that the FCA pays Google £600,000 a year to run anti-fraud ads

Google has announced that all financial services advertising to UK users will first need to be verified by the local financial regulator in a new effort to tackle the country’s rising fraud crisis.

The move comes two weeks after the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) director for enforcement, Mark Steward, highlighted the issue of fake companies advertising fraudulent financial services over social media platforms. Speaking at parliament's Treasury Select Committee meeting, Steward said that the number of consumer warnings about financial scams had to be doubled between 2019 and 2020.

Google’s new verification process aims to combat the issue of online fraud by requesting that financial services providers demonstrate that they are authorised by the FCA, or qualify for one of the limited exemptions, before they can advertise on the tech giant’s platforms.

The new requirements will go into effect starting September, according to Google UK & Ireland VP and MD Ronan Harris, who said that the announcement “reflects significant progress in delivering a safer experience for users, publishers and advertisers”.

“While we understand that this policy update will impact a range of advertisers in the financial services space, our utmost priority is to keep users safe on our platforms — particularly in an area so disproportionately targeted by fraudsters,” he stated in a company blog post.

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Harris also announced that Google has “pledged $5 million in advertising credits to support public awareness campaigns in the UK, helping to ensure that consumers are better informed about how to spot the tactics of scammers both online and offline”.

This comes after it was revealed that the FCA pays Google £600,000 a year to run ads warning users about online financial scams, despite the tech giant being accused of profiting from social media platforms that “make money out of fraud”.

Speaking at the Treasury Select Committee hearing, Steward said that "the irony of us having to pay social media to publish warnings about advertising that they're receiving money from is not lost on [the FCA]”.

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