Google teams up with Stop Scams to tackle financial fraud in the UK

Companies are stepping up to tackle scams on and offline.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Google has joined Stop Scams and outlined new measures to try and clamp down on financial fraud in the United Kingdom. 

On Friday, Vice President and MD of Google UK & Ireland, Ronan Harris, said that Google is the first major tech giant to partner with Stop Scams UK, an industry-led group that aims to tackle scams at the "source" by sharing threat data and creating scam-busting initiatives for organizations to roll out. 

Members include Lloyds, Barclays, NatWest Group, and Vodafone. Ofcom and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have also provided their support. 

UK Finance estimates that £1.26 billion ($1.75bn) was lost last year alone to scams in the UK. Phishing messages, fake emails pretending to be from banks and insurers, spoof phone calls, and social engineering are all common but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, other forms of scam have pushed to the forefront. 

These include delivery-based text messages, fake vaccination appointment 'reminders' and charges, romance scams, investment 'opportunities,' and the fraudulent use of photos of trusted financial experts -- including Martin Lewis -- across social media to tout dubious cryptocurrency schemes in a time where many of us have lost work and may be worried about our financial future. 

Action Fraud estimated that £2 million was lost to coronavirus-themed scams between the start of the pandemic and April 2020 alone.

Scammers may use standard letters sent in the post, text messages, email, phone calls, or social media platforms to lure in their victims. Now, while working with the FCA, Google has pledged $5 million (£3.5m) in advertising credits to give organizations a wider scope to launch public awareness campaigns. 

In addition, Google says that the company is going to spend the next few months developing and rolling out further restrictions for financial services in the United Kingdom that advertise through the firm's platform in order to tout fraudulent 'opportunities' to invest, to start a pension, and more. 

"Over the past year, we introduced several verification processes to learn more about the advertisers and their business operations," Harris commented. "During the verification period, we pause advertiser accounts if their advertising or business practices are suspected of causing harm. We are currently requiring all UK financial services advertisers to complete these programs in order to run ads."

Over 4,000 websites were added to the FCA's warning list in 2020 for potentially running scam operations and Google has updated existing advertising policies to prevent the use of terms that make unrealistic promises when it comes to financial returns. 

"Our teams are working hard on this issue because we all want UK consumers to feel safe and protected when they are managing their finances," Google says. "Even as attempts by scammers evolve, we will continue to take strong action and work in partnership with others to help keep consumers safe."

In related news this week, Google announced an upcoming, automatic enrollment of more users into two-step verification (2SV). As passwords are not considered enough to protect our accounts, two-factor authentication can help by creating an additional layer of security. Another option is using hardware-based verification, such as the Google Titan key fob. 

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