/ Scams

Paid scam adverts: our joint letter to Nadine Dorries

We wrote jointly with Martin Lewis to Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, about paid-for scam advertising. Here’s our letter in full.

14/12/21: Committee calls for paid scam ads to be covered

We welcome the committee’s call for paid-for scam advertising to be included in the Online Safety Bill. We made the argument to the Committee a few months ago and they’ve taken our calls on board.

10/11/21: Our letter to Nadine Dorries

Dear Secretary of State,

As you are aware, we – Which?, Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert and Money and Mental Health – have long been campaigning for regulation of paid-for scam advertising to be included in the Online  Safety Bill, to protect consumers from sophisticated criminals who are scamming innocent people on a scale we have never seen before. 

We watched with interest your evidence session to the Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill on Thursday. We were delighted to hear that you would love to cover scam adverts in the Bill and that you are open to recommendations on this issue.  

During that meeting, when asked about why paid-for scam adverts had not been included in the  draft Bill and if there was scope for their inclusion, you said that “the only reason” that they have not been included in the Bill was due to legal advice that you had received.  

We are writing to ask that you please publish the legal advice that is preventing you from including  paid-for scam advertising in this Bill.  

This legal stance is not something we recognise or understand. Therefore, in order for us and the myriad other organisations campaigning for this to effectively engage with the Government in this area, and in order to help improve policy and regulation around online safety, it is vital we  understand the legal advice you have received, so we can work with it in our shared efforts to take ‘robust action to tackle illegal abuse online’. Without it, we feel our hands are tied and we cannot  help you effectively combat these scammers. 

We ask that you publish the advice you received as soon as possible, to help all of us who share  similar aims to fight back against these criminals. 

Yours faithfully,

Martin Lewis

Founder and Chair, MoneySavingExpert and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

Rocio Concha

Director of Policy and Advocacy, Which?

Which? Campaigns: Make Tech Giants Take Responsibility 


As I understood the transcript of the debate, it was said that the Online Safety bill was primarily to protect children from harm and that adding in scam adverts would dilute its ability to do that. It was suggested that such adverts would be best dealt with by separate legislation.

The Bill is intended to make the services it regulates safer by placing responsibilities on the providers of those services in relation to content that is illegal or which, although legal, is harmful to children or adults. Source – Online Safety Bill: Explanatory Notes

One of the aims of the bill is to clamp down on the shocking amount of illegal content and the number of services that abuse and are potentially harmful to children.

However, paid advertising scams are potentially harmful to all individuals the bill is supposed to protect. This is particularly true of individuals that have lost money to investment scams or fallen for dating/romance scams.

Even internet services that are fully compliant with the duty of care, intent and regulations of the Bill cannot be regarded as safe, if they are hosting paid-for advertisments that operate to a lower standard.

And we certainly cannot have Facebook and the like continuing to wash their hands of responsibility of any part of the content content served up on their platforms. The only way around this I can see, without including paid for advertising within the scope of the Bill, is to remove all advertising from these sites.

I’ve a bad feeling that this so-called “safety” bill, which is supposed to protect children from harmful content will not go anywhere near far enough, because I know that there’s a HUGE range of stuff constantly aimed specifically at vulnerable children on an industrial scale which is extremely dangerous and can have appalling consequences and that is occult-based material, and far too much kid’s programming, films, books, games and toys etc. are occult based and no-one ever recognises the danger, and it’s deadly serious. And don’t anyone bother wasting their time trying to contradict me or make a mockery as I’m absolutely deadly serious and this is something I know about and I really care about children more than just about anything else in this world, and moderators please THINK before deleting this posting as it needs to be seen as there is far too much widespread ignorance about this deadly serious subject, even among those who are supposedly well educated. But unfortunately the majority of those who so arrogantly scoff at such warnings have no real experience of anything remotely spiritual or supernatural and are therefore not in a position to judge and there is also far too many seriously distorted beliefs about such things which only causes more confusion and dangers. And it’s about time more born again Christians paid more attention to this matter and spoke out about it as they should know about the dangers involved too. And I absolutely stand by every word.

I hate to sound awfully pessimistic, but knowing the British government’s general attitude and their appalling lack of sense of urgency and general blase attitude to anything remotely serious it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this piece of legislation ended up just like the so-called “equality” act which is never enforced anywhere NEAR as much as it should be and instead both public and private bodies alike just routinely urinate all over it and no-one anywhere ever wants to know, not even disability campaign groups.

With any Bill proposed, too much interference and fine refining can end up diluting it’s intended purpose and may make it less enforceable. As said by others too much legislation now is either not enforced or only selectively. Then lawyers find vague loopholes and the real culprits get away. My main worry is, it is difficult to pin down responsibility when the Tech companies are not based here (they get out of tax this way) and the perpetrators of the material etc. hide behind so many layers of cover to be able to get at them to prosecute. Could this legal advice be the usual ‘cease and desist’ employed by the big boys (Tory paymasters even) or the Tech giants themselves in a pre-emptive strike.

Very pleased to read the support for the progress re the scamming problem.