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Google cashes in on anti-scam ad campaign


Google rakes in £50,000 a month from the City watchdog to carry warnings above adverts for high-risk investments and suspected scams

By James Salmon for the Daily Mail

Published: | Updated:

Google is raking in £50,000 a month from the City watchdog to carry warnings above adverts for high-risk investments, including suspected scams.

As the new tax year approaches, savers are being bombarded by promotions for potentially bogus schemes offering bumper returns.

Many of them are for complex mini-bonds, which have been in the spotlight since the collapse of London & Capital Finance last year. Not all mini-bonds are scams but they are usually high risk.

Google is being paid by the FCA watchdog to carry warnings above adverts for high-risk investments, including suspected scams

In an effort to prevent savers from being duped, the Financial Conduct Authority imposed a ban on the mass-marketing of these investments on New Year’s day.

But bogus mini-bonds are still being pedalled by fraudsters online, and are advertised widely via Google.

After failing to persuade the internet search giant to take down these ads, it has emerged the FCA is now paying Google to place warnings next to high-risk savings schemes.

The exercise is proving lucrative for Google and costly for the FCA, which is bidding for adverts on a number of search terms, including mini-bonds, high return investments, high risk investments, best fixed rate ISA and high return ISA.

It has emerged that the FCA has spent £150,000 on placing adverts with Google in the first three months of this year. 

It has not decided whether it will continue with the campaign.

This farcical situation means Google receives two streams of advertising income – one for the advert itself and the other from the FCA warning about bogus investment schemes.

The FCA said it is powerless to tell Google what to do as it does not regulate the firm. But yesterday it lambasted the US internet behemoth for taking its money.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are disappointed that Google has charged us for the ads we’ve placed, however our priority is to warn consumers about the dangers of these scams, so taking forward our ad campaign is the best way to do that.’

The advert posted by the regulator states: ‘Don’t assume ISAs are a safe investment. Consider seeking independent advice. Beware of investments that offer a high return. They are often high risk.’

Former pensions minister Baroness Altmann said: ‘I would have hoped that Google recognised it has a public duty to do as much as it can to prevent people from being scammed. Instead it is taking money from all kinds of questionable sources.’

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

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