/ 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?

Pauline Lord says:
10 September 2021

I feel a fool. I have been scammed by a fake Paypal site: I put an advert on Gumtree selling a bookcase for £50 (cash on collection). The one response was from a woman’s name who said her father was interested. She asked me reply to his email address, which she included: some excuse about needing this because he was at work. I did this in spite of Gumtree’s warning only to respond to buyers or sellers via the Gumtree website. The reply from the “father” said he had arranged for a courier to pick up (he couldn’t do it in person because of work) had paid £100 into my Paypal account which would stay there until after the transaction was completed. I should buy an Amazon gift card for £50, made out to myself, by means of which the courier would be paid. I clicked on to the Paypal page which did indeed show £150 in my account. Then I was persuaded to buy another £50 Amazon gift card for “insurance”. (How stupid could I get!) which would also stay in my Paypal account. Again it showed as a credit on the Paypal page. Then came a notification that “tax” was due. At this stage the “Paypal” page started to look ludicrous with many capital letters and the threat that non-compliance would involve legal penalties. I was now belatedly suspicious, logged out and logged in again to Paypal independently on a different computer and saw my account was at zero. Oh well, I thought, they’ve taken me for £100! They emailed me a couple more times asking if I was still there. Obviously I didn’t reply but sent the whole exchange to Paypal fraud department, which they acknowledged. The fake Paypal account page was very convincing though, and the connection used their authentic email address. Serves me right, but I send this as a warning to others.

I use an AdBlocker on various browsers so don’t see 99% of adverts. When I do wish to buy something I stick to reliable channels (eBay and Amazon), and even then care is required. I only buy from UK sellers. I always look at their feedback, especially recent ones. I always avoid “No returns Accepted” sellers.

My gut feeling is that the majority of “Sponsored posts” on Facebook are scams. Unless a sponsored post is verifiably from a well known company, I assume it’s a scam and steer clear! Tough luck on genuine start ups trying to build their businesses through Facebook, but there it is!

I just ignore all ads. I use an ad blocker and never click on an ad that gets through.
When I want to find something I use a search engine and check the http address.
No padlock no sale

david bird says:
10 September 2021

i use the internet but dont trust it,i dont trust add that are from abroadits bad enough trying to sort the wheat from the chuff in this country? even whatsapp isnt safe i know its not nearly to my cost.i dont know who to trust anymore on or offline.

I have to assume that adverts that appear on Facebook are a con or a scam a lot of adverts are for a American customer they appear to be more gullible than we are. The email adverts are about the same if you read them you can see several that are using the same con tricks, So be very careful and listen to advice from Which

I use: masked email addresses, ‘Privacy Protection’ add-on, Duckduckgo for searching, private windows, clear data, history and cookies several times per day, use a variety of browsers e.g Firefox, Opera or Brave.
I never use: Google (knowingly) for anything, Edge, Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram,

For the most part, any advertising for sales purposes cannot be trusted, TV, internet or otherwise. Almost all advertising of facebook, twitter or instagram I deem to be a scam. I would never sign in to any company from an email, such is the state of our greedy world and online technology. Stay safe, only buy on the sites you have long trusted.

I buy everything online because I am lying flat with a spinal injury 24/7.

I have been conned at least 6 times in the last 10 months and that excludes fraud through paypal sellers. I have had to have a new bank card each time.

Paypal are helpful but it is tedious to have to constantly prove that a seller has provided a legitimate delivery tracking when they have sent you a phone charger rather than a large piece of furniture or a paper fan instead of a portable electronic washing machine !!!

Facebook ads are the most enticing, and there is no way of discovering if these are chinese scams, as all items are sold as US$’s and £’s regardless, until after the transaction has been processed !!!

Recently I caught a £100 sale go through paypal without my even having agreed on the payment – I had simply looked at the item. I am still awaiting my cash that paypal
knew about, but which there was absolutely no visible record of, as it was “pending” whilst the cash had left my bank account !!! I am still awaiting the cash back !!!
Facebook is undoubtedly the very worst for fraudulent adverts, and most charge exorbitant courier/shipping charges and do not show vat until after the whole deal has gone through – when you suddenly discover a cheap item is now costing you more than double the price initially shown !!!

Cancellations are frequently refused as already in processing for shipping !!! Then returns are at huge postage fees for the buyers as well.

Something extremely serious needs to be done urgently now. Most people don’t even know the money has gone out of their accounts never mind bother to follow up and do all the necessary fight-back required !!!

Thank you.

Helen Holmes says:
10 September 2021

I have never bought an item on-line as a result of an ad popping up on my iPad.
Indeed, the only on-line shopping I have ever done is to order from my usual supermarket, for the sheer convenience of having a large, bulky shop delivered (don’t run a car).
Until……last week, when I decided to purchase a cookbook, and 2 associated books, from an American company.
I got an immediate order confirmation which, despite the on-line ad, bore no relation to the goods I wanted to purchase, plus was charging me 3 times the advertised cost.
I immediately demanded my money back: the promotional offer promised an entire refund if not wholly satisfied. I was very dissatisfied.
It has taken a week of replying to ridiculous emails from the company, and the involvement of the Fraud Department at RBS, to get the company to agree to a full refund.
It is not a large amount involved, $24.95, but the sheer effrontery of this company, in clearly thinking they could get away with such poor marketing practices, & fibbing me off with genetic emails from “customer support” that made me determined to get a refund.
Should have popped along to my local bookshop & supported my neighbourhood economy!

Alan Bailey says:
11 September 2021

I have one credit card with a very low credit limit(£250) which I use for all online transactions. This is linked to PayPal and has worked out well for me.

You have to presume it is a con, to be safe only use British well known companies or Amazon or eBay. Use a credit card and no other method of payment especially bank transfer. If in doubt do not buy.

Pam Stevens says:
11 September 2021

No, too many of them and they can’t be trusted,

I have an ad blocker but some get through.
I as a matter of course ignore advertisements on line.

If I see an ad on Facebook I assume it is dodgy unless I recognise the company from the High Street. Even then I would go direct to their website from my browser.
I once bought from a company a friend had ‘liked’ and found it impossible to return poor quality goods to them somewhere in Hong Kong. Once bitten, twice shy.

I find that even the companies I already use have joined the cheat mode! Was informed that I had won £25K plus a TV and a mobile phone just had to send confirmation. With an order over £15. After 3attempts at following these instructions Have decided to change my super.

I never buy from an advert, if I google something I want to buy, I only open the website if my online security programme says it is a safe site, I also don’t trust reviews of products on the company selling the product’s website, and will usually look and search independently on Trustpilot to see company/product reviews. I rarely buy things from E-bay or Amazon but usually buy products from trusted companies where I type in the URL address. Facebook is extremely annoying with constant ads of companies I’ve never heard of popping up in my newsfeed despite going through all FB ad preferences/settings to try and stop them appearing and reporting them as spam.

Sandra Mackie says:
11 September 2021

I do not shop online. On the rare occasions I have I tend to use a search engine and then check that the information provided is genuine. I never click on adverts.

I wonder why we still use the internet when it is so unsafe to do so.Every where you turn somebody is trying to steal your money or details,it had got totally ludicrous.The old ways are always the best,let’s scrap the whole thing! A solar flare could muck it all up anyway.

I have NEVER clicked on any advert I have seen on ANY platform. To be honest, I have never been attracted to a single one of them.