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Fraud focus requires adviser firm action

First published by Mortgage Solutions

Financial fraud, and particularly mortgage fraud which can involve some serious sums of money, costs our industry millions of pounds each year, and the reputational damage can be considerable, especially for a sector which relies on its trustworthiness to deliver consumer confidence and to secure business leads.

In that regard, it is perhaps no wonder that our regulator(s) are working to try and ensure ‘successful’ perpetrations of fraud are kept to an absolute minimum.

Remote working has created new opportunities for fraudsters

As a sector, over the past 18 months, we have effectively had to work remotely with our clients and this has provided the fraudsters with an extra incentive and avenue to pursue. If you never meet the adviser face-to-face, or indeed if you never meet the fraudulent customer face-to-face, then there is an increased chance of such activity taking place.

Part of what the regulator is trying to do is cut off fraud at source. There are countless examples, for instances, of fraudsters setting up fake firms, advertising via Google and social media, and drawing in customers to steal their money.

To that end, and this may be something firms are not fully aware of yet, Google has introduced a new measure to protect consumers and help prevent those scammers from exploiting its platforms.

Verification for increased protection

Since the start of September, it has started to verify financial services firms who want to advertise on Google, including for both display and search results adverts. And an important point for firms who rely on this advertising – until you secure that verification your advertising will be paused.

This will be the case for both existing advertisers and anyone who wants to advertise in the future. If you’re the former, you’ll only need to complete ID verification if Google sends a notification email and you have an activated account with them.

The steps required to verify may differ depending on the firm’s account and structure, the billing set-up, and if you are advertising on behalf of a firm or as an individual.

However, this will also differ if you are part of a network like Stonebridge. Because we are the FCA-approved network, the requirements mean that the verification process needs to take place through us, rather than individually. As a result, we’ve had to put new internal processes in place to take our AR firms through the required steps, and I suspect other networks will be in the same position.

It may take some time to secure that verification so if you’ve not heard from your Network Principal, we would advise you to get in touch with them, to see how they can help you secure the verification required to keep on advertising.

As digital services grow, so to do service review requirements

The other point to make is that one-time verification is unlikely to be the end of the matter. We hear that Google, for example, may be reviewing all financial services advertising accounts on a quarterly basis, and in all likelihood, this type of checking policy will spread to other digital and social advertising platforms.

You can fully understand the rationale for this as the damage from fraud can be devastating for all concerned. Advice firms are going to need to keep a close eye on the requirements and AR’s will need to work closely with their networks to ensure ongoing verification to allow them to advertise their much-needed products and services.

Jo Carrasco is Business Partnerships Director at Stonebridge
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