You can now report scam adverts you spot online to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – will you be making the most of the new tool?
ASA recently launched a new reporting tool for people to flag fraudulent advertising on social media, search engines and other online advertising space.
It’s a positive and promising step for tackling the wildly unregulated world of internet advertising.
If you stumble across a suspicious ad online you can report it to the ASA service here.
How will it be enforced?
Cryptocurrency and investment scams are currently the biggest concern, often promising tempting but ultimately unrealistic returns.
It’s estimated that £27 million was lost to these kinds of scams in 2018/2019.
Adverts commonly feature photos and testimonials of celebrities who they falsely claim have used their services.
Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis famously sued Facebook for libel for failing to remove scam ads that used his name and photo to promote scam investment products.
However, although the ASA reporting scheme has support from online media platforms, it currently has no power to enforce them to remove fraudulent ads.
It will be down to the platforms themselves to decide if, and how, it should take action.
With potentially thousands of illegitimate ads brought to their attention, will they have the resources to deal with them all? And how proactive will they be, considering it could hit their advertising revenue?
Identifying and tackling criminals
Most platforms have their own built-in reporting functions for users to notify them of scam content, but we know some of them just aren’t proving that effective.
It will be interesting to see whether the ASA scheme will prove any more successful.
ASA has safeguarded consumers from dodgy advertising on traditional media such as TV, radio, magazines and newspapers since the 60s, but the nature of online advertising has proved harder to regulate, partly because of the vastness of content on the internet.
Posting adverts online is affordable, quick and easy, and it’s possible to precisely target the audience you’re trying to appeal to.
It’s all very well removing a single scam advert, but scammers will simply set up a new one immediately.
As well as reporting, we need better ways of identifying and tackling the criminals behind scam ads online, and preventing them from reposting.
We’re keen to see how successful the new reporting scheme will be over the coming months.
Will you report scams to ASA? What more do you think online platforms can do to stop scam advertising?