FCA Steps Up Campaign Against Online Scammers

Justin Freeman

FCA Steps Up Campaign Against Online Scammers

  • Misleading Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram ads are targeted by FCA
  • Fin-fluencers and social media platforms found to be targeting younger investors
  • FCA is ‘throwing the book’ at rogue social media operators and big internet operators

More than 10,000 ads on social media sites, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube, have been blocked by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) after the UK regulator established they were misleading and, at worst, scams. The financial watchdog has hired over 100 staff to implement machine learning and data analysis protocols to clean the internet of such content.

The clampdown throughout 2022 represents a 15-fold increase in the number of promotions forcibly removed in 2021. More than 180,000 sites were scanned by the financial regulator, with 4,500 being investigated in more detail. The offenders included online brokers, unregulated crypto platforms, and independently operating individuals termed ‘fin-fluencers’.

Who is the FCA Protecting?

The impressive scaling up of regulatory intervention demonstrates the FCA’s switch to focus on protecting younger investors. Many of the ads targeted a youthful demographic, and the use of social media platforms is another giveaway as to the direction scammers are heading.

Other groups highlighted as being at risk are those exposed to the cost-of-living crisis, with get-rich-quick schemes offering false hope of financial security to those in desperate situations.

Promotions of crypto also came into the scope of the FCA’s upgraded monitoring program. More than 50 crypto brokers were advised that they must clearly state the risks investors face; one broker was closed down.

Despite the prices of digital coins tumbling in 2022, misleading schemes are still in action. Some crypto platforms fell foul of being overly aggressive when promoting ‘buy now or miss the bounce’ style strategies.

Another attempt to clean up the crypto space involved FCA intervention over Arsenal Football Club’s campaign to sell ‘club tokens’ to fans. It was ordered to remove ‘misleading’ adverts, and all clubs were reminded they had an additional duty of care to fans who are emotionally involved with following their team.

Cleaning Up the Internet

The crackdown by the FCA has also targeted what many deem to be the source of the problem – the vast internet giants such as Alphabet, Twitter, and Meta. Those firms have changed their advertising policies to ensure that only regulated firms can promote only regulated products online. But that upgrade is best described as a work in progress. The FCA commented that “more needs to be done by tech companies to protect consumers.”

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Justin Freeman

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