Alert: Fraudulent advertising and websites
David Holland, Chief Inspector
23 February 2023
We have recently seen an increase in fraudulent websites posing as debt advice providers in Google search results (featuring as ads). Equally, we have also seen clones of legitimate insolvency firms’ websites and false websites created for insolvency firms which have no web presence in order to carry out illicit activity. Insolvency professionals should be extra vigilant and regularly check that your online identity, including all company interests, is correct and is not being misused.
How to protect yourself and your firm
- Ensure that any online records with your information match the online Insolvency Service IP register
- Perform regular online checks and reviews of Companies House numbers and addresses to make sure they aren’t being used on any websites without permission.
- Have a clear ‘Terms and Conditions’ page on your website, which clearly explains what you own and what your policy is about anyone copying the content (this will assist in being able to take action in the future)
- Ensure that your website complies as far as possible with the requirements of the Provisions of Services Regulations. This guidance defines that the regulations still apply post Brexit, and members should ensure they make all the relevant information available. Complying with the regulations is a requirement and it gives credibility to a website. It also enables frauds to be quickly spotted if the information is missing or does not match other reference points available from web searches.
If you become a victim of any issues detailed in this alert, report this immediately to the relevant authorities such as the Police, Action Fraud, FCA (if services are being offered without the correct FCA permissions) and the Insolvency Service, and submit a Suspicious Activity Report. You should also contact the IPA at email@example.com to inform us. To assist with helping the general public identify fraudulent websites, IPs affected have found it useful to flag up the issue by posting a page on the IPA’s dedicated Fraud and Scam alerts webpage. Prompt highlighting of the issue on different social media platforms also helps to minimise potential harms and raises awareness of the scam, which in turn means that the website created has a reduced lifespan.
Please use also use firstname.lastname@example.org to advise us of any other general concerns about website content, which you consider looks suspicious or may bring the insolvency profession into disrepute. The IPA is working with other regulatory bodies, including the Advertising Standards Authority, in an effort to stamp out fraudulent advertising.