/ Scams

Do you trust online adverts?

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.

Targeted ads

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?


I too have been caught with scam advertising, I only buy now from companies I know. I also got hacked and have had so much bother over it as they put games onto my Amazon account and I would not know what to do with them so would not have ordered these but they caught me, I could not get anywhere with Amazon and began to wonder if the “chat sessions” were genuine as nobody got back to me, in the end I closed my account with them, well I think I have as they may have kept it open?!
I am elderly and in very poor health and very vunerable and I rely on online shopping,etc as I cannot get out to do it for myself, the upset they have caused but of course they don’t have feelings. It is hard to trust anyone now.

Ian OLIVE says:
10 September 2021

Almost all of the ads that pop up are for things I have searched for, found and bought. So the algorithms aren’t as clever as they are cracked up to be. As a result I have never bought anything as a result of a targeted ad. Nor would I ever buy from an unsolicited ad as I feel they are an unwarranted intrusion on my life.

I always report scams that look dodgy

Susan Collins says:
10 September 2021

I am very annoyed at myself to say i have been scammed as im usualy very careful but this has taught me a pretty expensive lesson,will make doubly trebly sure in future that the offers are for real.

Morris Munns says:
10 September 2021

I distrust adverts in the middle of Twitter feeds etc. I usually scroll past the advertised results of Google search to get to a bona fide firm. I try to report scams that come through text and email, but it isn’t always easy. One I tried to report to HMRC seemed to have been equipped with some sort of device for preventing it being reported.

I am not on social media but ads come to me anyway. Got caught with a huge postage on a clothing order from China??? I got the goods but some were unsuitable or wrong size. Extortionate Return postage to China? No way! Won’t be caught again.
I worry that so many retailers are resorting to online shopping with shops closing that we will be forced into these dodgy deals. I am well over 70 and will now only buy clothes on the high street as I want to know exactly what I am getting but choice is diminishing? Ads will be deleted.

I found PayPal to be very good at refunding postage costs, apart from making refunds of returned goods.

If there is a specific product that I need, I always search for the most well known product Retailers, e.g. if wanting a new electronic device, I would visit genuine Samsung website, or a new Mattress, Dormeo genuine website, etc,.

June Wilkinson says:
10 September 2021

I generally avoid/ignore such ads. However, where I see one relating to a product I have an interest in, i firstly check if Which have reviewed the product and if not, I check a range of other reviews before proceeding.

I got caught on the Yuan pay group site. It looked genuine but it was a front for forex traders. I got my deposit back after many negative reviews sent by me, but it was not easy. I do not trust anything on the internet. There are good companies out there but you have to do your home work. I found many sites and lists that gave information about scams and warnings about big furniture companies , and I suggest every one checks the review sites like trustpilot, F.B. complaints pages, before buying anything. Cars, fridges, cookers, deep fat fryers, sofas, carpets, health products, and many more. Reviews are rigged to a certain extent, and Amazon products are star rated, but if you cannot access the one star, leave it alone.

Claire Jauffret says:
10 September 2021

I ignore all the ads online. It annoys me that I get targeted on websites based on previous purchase or searches, puts me off buying from them. it’s also a daft way to advertise. You might look up a medical condition out of interest or because someone you know has it and then get inundated with ads for everything to do with severe teen acne when you are in your sixties and in no need of any product. Or a heart monitor or zimmer frame. It’s worse than harassment by hawkers on holiday.

Loathe all that stuff that jumps or flashes to get your attention on other sites, makes me more likely to leave the site and no read the info I came to read.
I tend to shop through sites I know and trust.

Maggie Whyte says:
10 September 2021

I’ve been caught out twice on Facebook.
1 Ordered mugs from a company called Mug a Bubble mugs never arrived nor did the refund.
2 Bought diet pills (I should have known better) the company was American the cost was£38. Two days later my bank account had been cleared out. I was lucky my bank’s fraud dept refunded me. I informed Facebook not interested these ads still appear!

Robert Payne says:
10 September 2021

Over the last three days I have had at least five e-mails supposedly from Amazon saying I have been chosen to have free shopping next time I quote ” WE PAY FOR YOU NEXT SHOPPING ” Yes I am deeply suspicious as a company like Amazon are not going to send out badly worded mail repetitively with that frequency. They all ended up in my junk mail.

Why does a reputable company need to advertise on line as well as everywhere else? Qite frankly- get off my facebook page because it makes you look disreputable any company who advertises to me by email more than once is at risk of being totally banned as reputable. I am sick of the junk mail, and ads in general. I don’t need reminders of toilet paper (?) yes even toilet paper ads appear in my mail. I always think the more advertising space companies pay for,the more their products actually cost because we have to pay doubly for their products and their blooming ads.

sachakins says:
10 September 2021

Don’t trust any internet ads, never use them, never click on them.
It’s hard enough keeping spam/scam/phishing email and text at bay, even using only known companies.
Too often data “leaks” out from these either through hacks or lax practices but we the consumer either never get to know or find out months later, with very little chance of redress or even an individual apology. The result being that your email is out there before you know it and the only solution is to stop using that email and start another one.
Trust in real online companies is low enough anyway, so unknown, unsolicited and other types are totally distrusted by me.

A Richardson says:
10 September 2021

Sad to say that I treat all ads as scam

Dutchpete says:
10 September 2021

I did trust an add, recommended by a celebrity. I put my card details in to pay but fortunately my bank declined the payment! Gla I trusted my bank.

I responded to an online advert offering a cheap alternative to some shoes I had been looking at previously. Some six weeks later the goods have still not appeared despite coming from the UK. Emails to the company have been returned as undeliverable. I did report this to PayPal who advised me to contact the company which I cannot do as my emails bounce back. Never again will I buy online special offers!

During the lockdown I purchased, from an advert on Facebook a bar of shampoo soap, cost about 9 pounds with postage. I used my credit card. The soap arrived and it is fine. This was purchased on the 13 th May 2021. When the credit card statement arrived under the soap purchase also on 13th May 2021 was a purchase of £2,229.00 for a drainage company in Gloucester! Which was nothing to do with me.

10 September 2021

When I want to search online for a particular service regardless of what it is, I am then bombarded with cold calls from companies trying to sell me their product. This automatically puts me off wanting to use that company because I feel they have obtained my information without my permission.

Shropshire Lass says:
10 September 2021

My husband narrowly missed being caught out by a scam. He logged onto what he thought was genuine “Microsoft” helpline. All seemed very helpful and professional, however, after he had given card details for support charge alarm bells began to ring. He immediately contacted bank who cancelled card. Very shortly after bank called us and said someone had tried to extract £500. Lucky escape, even sites appearing absolutely genuine can be deceiving.