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Advertising Standards Agency launches new Scam Ad Alert System

The ASA respond to concerns and complaints from consumers and businesses and take action to ban ads which are misleading, harmful, offensive or irresponsible. As well as responding to complaints, they monitor ads to check they’re following the rules. They also conduct research to test public opinion and identify where they need to take action to protect consumers.

In 2019, they resolved 34,717 complaints relating to almost 25,000 ads.

Consumers can now report scam ads appearing in paid-for space online to the ASA. They 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. In some instances, they may also add them to ‘blocklists’, even when the ads weren’t appearing on their platform, stopping them from appearing in future.

Tackling online scam ads is a global problem, requiring a joined-up response involving law-enforcement bodies and statutory regulators, platforms and all involved in the online ad industry, as well as national advertising regulatory bodies such as the ASA. The Scam Ad Alert system coincides with the Consumer Protection Partnership’s Scams Awareness Campaign which this year focuses on COVID-19 related scams. Working with partners including National Trading Standards, Citizens Advice, Competition and Markets Authority and Trading Standards Scotland, we aim to reduce the risk and impact of scams by raising awareness amongst consumers and equipping them with the skills needed to recognise and report them.

ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker said: “The overwhelming majority of ads responsibly inform and entertain their audience, but a small minority are published with criminal intent. 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.”

If you see an advert online that doesn’t look or feel right, then you can now report this directly to the ASA online at