Algorithms deliver ads to apparently best serve your shopping needs, but how much do you trust an online advert? Are they a help or hindrance?
The ease and accessibility of using the internet is both a curse and a blessing in my view.
It’s so easy for me to pick up my phone and ‘Google’ whatever it is that I need – a new bed for the dog; the number for the vet; the pet insurance claims portal…
I pretty much Google everything. It’s a time thing for me, it’s fast and easy but I also know that this comes with a risk – albeit a managed one. While I may think it’s there to serve my best interests, the internet is a money-making machine and, sadly, it’s also a scammer’s paradise.
After Googling whatever shopping dilemma I’m in, I know there will be an inevitable deluge of targeted ads on my social media.
So when I think about whether I trust these ads, my gut instinct is a straight ‘no’ – I don’t feel comfortable that I’m getting a ‘good’ deal, and I also know how scarily easy it is to be snared by a dodgy search listing or a rogue trader on social media.
In a survey over over 2,000 people who use social media, we found that one in ten had been taken in by a dodgy advert that appeared in their social media or search engine results.
We get so many people contacting us about these types of scams – be it a copycat website offering DVLA services, a scam investment firm ranking in search ads and conning people out of tens of thousands of pounds, or a scam retailer marketing ‘Clarks’ shoes and instead posting knock-off sunnies.
Our research into the reporting of these scams adverts found that the processes are so onerous, inaccessible and ultimately with disappointing outcomes that two in five victims do not report them to host platforms.
Aviva fraud report
Last week, the insurance giant Aviva released its fraud report. Its conclusion was that consumer trust in online adverts is pretty low. Of the people it surveyed:
⚠ 53% don’t trust adverts placed by genuine financial services companies
⚠ 65% don’t believe search engines verify the financial product, service or provider
⚠ 87% think the government should make search engines and social media sites work to stop ads misleading consumers or promoting financial scams
Online platforms play such a pivotal role in our day-to-day lives, but these platforms don’t seem to be earning our trust.
Google recently announced plans to crack down on rogue financial services advertisers with stricter requirements for firms promoting financial services. The change will come into effect from 6 September.
These checks could wipe out many scams which rely on paid-for adverts to find victims. However, stricter policies mean very little without enforcement.
So I’d like to hear from you – where do you stand on online ads? Are these harmless helpers in resolving your shopping dilemmas, or, like me, do you think these ads are far too often a scammer’s trap?