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2 out of 3 people agree digital platforms aren’t doing enough to protect people from scams: CHOICE

Investigation finds Google, Facebook and Instagram are failing to prevent scammers from posting fake retailer ads.

Last updated: 27 September 2023

Research from CHOICE has revealed 2 out of 3 people (66%) think digital platforms, such as Google and Meta, aren't doing enough to protect people from scams. 

The research also found almost 4 out of 5 (79%) people fear their loved ones might have difficulty spotting a scam. 

"It's no surprise that such a significant portion of Australians agree digital platforms aren't doing enough to protect people from scams. We've found a number of advertisements across Google, Facebook and Instagram promoting scam retailer websites, including examples highlighting issues with Google's policies to prevent scam ads," says CHOICE CEO, Alan Kirkland. 

lorna jane image MR

Pictured: Advertisement on Google for scam retailer website

A CHOICE investigation found ads on Google, Instagram and Facebook linking through to fake websites that imitate popular retailers - including H&M, Gorman, Lorna Jane, Country Road, Peter Alexander, Seed Heritage and Decjuba. The investigation also found issues with Google's own policies to prevent scams because some advertisers do not appear to be verified before they publish ads.

"These ads and fake websites make it extremely difficult for consumers to work out what's genuine and what's not. They are often used to trick people into handing over personal information or credit card details," says Kirkland. 

"Scams are becoming more sophisticated operations, using the same tools legitimate businesses use to advertise. Advertisements for scam websites that we found on Google appeared high on the search results, instantly grabbing a user's attention, and giving them the impression of authenticity," says Kirkland. 

CHOICE says this demonstrates the importance of the government's commitment to introduce mandatory codes to require businesses like banks, telcos and digital platforms to do more to protect people from scams. 

"Large digital platforms like Google and Meta have some of the best technology in the world. They should be putting it to maximum use to protect people from scams but our investigation reveals significant gaps in their approach. This reinforces the need for mandatory rules for digital platforms to prevent scams, with strong penalties if they fail to comply," says Kirkland. 

Examples of fake ads and websites available here. 

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.