The UK’s upcoming online safety law should include more consumer protections to prevent search engines from promoting financial scams in their results, insurer Aviva said.
In its latest fraud report, the company found that consumers have little faith in the Internet as a tool to buy financial services.
According to a survey of 2,005 adults conducted earlier this year, more than half of Internet users (53 percent) do not trust that the ads are placed on search engines by a legitimate financial services provider or provider. Another 56 percent do not believe that search engines verify the authenticity of the financial products they advertise on their platform.
The survey also found that over-55s trust search engine results much less than 16-24 year-olds.
The first draft of the online security law was finally published in May after a series of delays. It proposes hefty fines for social media companies that fail to adequately address abuse on their platforms, but Aviva wants this to include online scams.
Rob Lee, director of fraud prevention at Aviva, said: “There is a clear distrust of online advertising for financial services. However, there is no legal responsibility for tech companies to verify the legitimacy of the companies paying them to publish ads on their platforms. This potentially exposes millions of Internet users to unscrupulous advertisements.
“There is no legal responsibility for tech companies to verify the legitimacy of the companies that pay them to publish ads on their platforms. This potentially exposes millions of internet users to unscrupulous advertisements.”
Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed said they felt the government should legislate to ensure that search engines and social media sites don’t mislead consumers or promote financial scams.
“We believe the Online Safety Bill provides 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 by advocating for the inclusion of financial scams promoted by paid advertising into legislation.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated internet adoption in the UK, including increased use of financial services.
Figures from May show that online shopping is booming among the over-65s, with online retailer use doubling compared to the same time last year.
Aviva said this increased use means it is an even higher priority for the government to put in place rules to protect online consumers.
The scale of the fraud has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a deluge of opportunities for criminals over the past year.
Aviva’s survey found that 42 percent of people were the target of a Covid scam – a 91 percent increase from the previous year in the number of people reporting emails, texts, phone calls and other messages. about coronavirus and suspected of being a financial scam.