ASA announces plan to combat online fraud

Justin Freeman
UK ASA definition highlighted using an orange pen

A major name on the UK’s regulatory scene has announced a plan to help combat the scourge of online fraud.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that it would take steps to reduce the proliferation of scam adverts online.

It said that it would work along the UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) to help implement its plans.

When outlining the details of its new system, which is called Scam Ad Alert, it emphasised the role that paid-for adverts related to fraudulent cryptocurrency investment opportunities played in this landscape.

“The Scam Ad Alert trial responded to ongoing concerns about online paid-for ads linking to fraudulent content, particularly crypto investment, such as Bitcoin, scams,” it said in a press release.

“Many scam ads of this type use false stories or doctored images of celebrities, and misleadingly imply those celebrities have endorsed the service,” it added.

It also revealed that individuals were now able to flag fraudulent adverts directly to the ASA when they observe them in paid-for ad spaces.

From there, platforms and publishers related to the advert will be notified about its existence – and, according to the ASA, will take steps to take down the advert.

“Consumers can now report scam ads appearing in paid-for space online to the ASA,” it said.

“It will promptly send an alert to all participating platforms with key details of the scam ad, as well as to publishers when the ad appeared on a publisher owned site.”

“If they locate them, partners will remove the offending ad and suspend the advertiser’s account,” it added.

According to the chief executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, the move came as part of the regulator’s attempt to “better protect consumers online”.

“The overwhelming majority of ads responsibly inform and entertain their audience, but a small minority are published with criminal intent,” he said.

“Our Scam Ad Alert system will play an important part in helping detect and disrupt these types of scams.”

“By working closely with our partners such as Google and Facebook we can act quickly to have problem ads taken down as part of our ongoing work to better protect consumers online,” he added.

For IAB UK, chief executive officer Jon Mew said that the new development was “a significant step” towards dealing with fake adverts.

“While there is no silver bullet solution to combatting scam ads, the launch of the ASA’s new system – in collaboration with a number of our members – is a significant step towards helping tackle the issue and shows what can be achieved at a cross-industry level,” he said.

“This initiative takes a joined-up approach to remove scam ads and will play an important role in improving the online ecosystem for both advertisers and consumers.”

“It needs to be utilised alongside law enforcement to address the underlying illegitimate activity behind these ads,” he added.


Justin Freeman

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