Search engines hit by mortgage scam

Yuan Phoon

November 22, 2011

Scam ads were triggered by phrases such as “stop foreclosure” and then made false promises to help people hold on to their homes under a US government-backed programme to modify mortgage payments.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Programme announced it was cleaning up the misconduct on Google and had closed 125 mortgage scams by Monday, up from 85 last week.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine agreed to stop accepting adverts from hundreds of internet advertisers and agencies tied to the scams. The ban also applies to Yahoo because it depends on Microsoft to sell its search advertising as part of a revenue-sharing partnership.

The US Treasury Department division said many of the con artists bought ads on all three search engines.

Identities of the alleged culprits have not been disclosed because the criminal investigation is still ongoing.

A spokesman at Microsoft said: “Microsoft is committed to preventing fraud within its advertising network and online community and is working closely with the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Programme to help tackle the problem of fraudulent mortgage-modification advertising.”


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