Insurance Fraud Bureau

The IFB welcomes the Government's decision to include paid scam ads in the Online Safety Bill

09 March 2022

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The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) is welcoming the Government’s announcement that search engines and social media platforms will be legally required to prevent paid-for fraudulent adverts, as part of the anti-fraud measures set out in the Online Safety Bill.

Ben Fletcher, Director at the IFB, said:

“I’m very pleased to hear that the Government will be tackling scam ads through the Online Safety Bill.

“For far too long, social media and search engine giants have barely been held to account for the fraudulent ads they are paid to host, which left little incentive for them to do more to stop ad scams.

“These scams have a serious impact. Our investigations have shown that fraudsters are mispresenting insurers and targeting road traffic victims on a daily basis – tricking them into agreements with third parties which can leave them ripped off and facing threatening calls for extortionate payments”.   

“Legislative commitment to curb paid online scam ads is a significant step forward. If enforced against effectively, this will protect countless people from falling victim to the serious impact of insurance fraud and help to ensure the bill achieves its objective of making the UK the safest place to be online.

 "If anyone has evidence of an insurance scam, it should be reported to our confidential Cheatline at www.insurancefraudbureau.org or 0800 422 0421."

 

The IFB is a not-for-profit organisation at the heart of the UK’s fight against organised insurance fraud.

In July 2021, the IFB backed industry calls for the inclusion of online ads in the Online Safety Bill after it discovered road traffic victims were being targeted by fraudsters via search engine ads on a daily basis.

IFB investigations have shown unscrupulous companies are using paid ads such as Google Ads, to misrepresent insurers and hi-jack car insurance claims.

Misleading click-to-call ad results are often discovered by road traffic victims who are searching for their insurer’s contact details for urgent support services or to make a claim after a collision.

The ads – paid for by dodgy claims management firms – appear to represent the insurer, which tricks the victim into tapping the ad and calling through. Under the belief they are speaking to their insurer, the victim will be unwittingly signing up to a string of third party services which can potentially leave them thousands of pounds out of pocket and facing non-stop threatening phone calls.

The IFB currently has four active investigations into suspected ad scam networks and urges the public to be vigilant:

  • Be cautious when using a search engine to find insurer contact details before clicking on ad results. Always check the website address or URL to help ensure it’s legitimate.
  • Motorists should carry their insurer’s claims contact number (which can often be found on policy documentation), and keep it noted in their car or saved on their phone.
  • If someone thinks they have seen or been victim of an insurance ad scam, it’s important to make the affected insurer aware so they can take steps to address the issue.
  • Insurance fraud should also be reported to the IFB via its confidential Cheatline service (powered by Crimestoppers) on 0800 422 0421 or at www.insurancefraudbureau.org.