Online Safety Bill should prevent search engines promoting financial scams – Aviva
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The UK’s upcoming Online Safety Bill should include greater consumer protections to stop search engines promoting financial scams in their results, insurer Aviva has said.
In its latest Fraud Report, the firm found that consumers have low trust in the internet as a tool for shopping for financial services.
According to a survey of 2,005 adults carried out earlier this year, more than half of internet users (53 per cent) don’t trust that the adverts on search engines are placed by a legitimate financial services company or provider. A further 56 per cent don’t believe that search engines verify the authenticity of the financial products that they allow to be advertised on their platform.
The survey also found that those aged over 55 were much less likely to trust the results of a search engine than those aged 16–24.
The first draft of the Online Safety Bill was finally published in May following a series of delays. It proposes significant fines for social media firms that fail to adequately tackle abuse on their platforms, but Aviva wants this to include online scams as well.
Rob Lee, director of fraud prevention at Aviva, said: “There is a clear mistrust of financial services adverts online. However, there is no legal responsibility for technology firms to verify the legitimacy of the companies which pay them to publish adverts on their platforms. This potentially leaves millions of internet users exposed to unscrupulous adverts.
“There is no legal responsibility for technology firms to verify the legitimacy of the companies which pay them to publish adverts on their platforms. This potentially leaves millions of internet users exposed to unscrupulous adverts.”
Eighty-seven per cent of people surveyed said they thought the government should legislate to ensure search engines and social media sites do not mislead consumers or promote financial scams.
“We believe the Online Safety Bill presents an opportunity to protect financial services consumers at every stage of their online journey,” Lee added.
“We welcome the recent inclusion of user-generated fraud - such as that promoted on social media sites - within the scope of the regulatory framework. We support the financial services industry in calling for the legislation to include financial scams promoted by paid-for adverts.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated internet adoption in the UK, including growing use of financial services.
Figures from May show online shopping booming among the over-65s, with a doubling in the amount they use internet retailers compared to the same time last year.
Aviva said this increased use means it is an even higher priority for the Government to institute rules to protect online consumers.
The scale of fraud has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in a deluge of opportunities for criminials over the last year.
Aviva’s research found 42 per cent of people had been targeted by a Covid scam – a 91 per cent increase over the previous year in the number of people who reported receiving emails, texts, phone calls and other communications mentioning coronavirus, and which were suspected to be a financial scam.
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