We investigate how net giants cash in on scam ads conning people out of life savings and demand they STOP

BIG tech firms such as Google and Facebook are making huge profits letting crooks advertise bogus financial products that can lead victims to lose their life savings.

They carelessly fail to check if ads are genuine before publishing them – while watchdogs just stick their heads in the sand over the growing scandal.

A fraudulent Facebook ad claiming Gordon Ramsay uses a money-making scheme

Today we look at the fraudulent promises that big search engines and social media sites are paid to display – and what MUST be done to stop them.

We also tell you how to avoid being caught out by the con tricks.

Fake savings and investment ads

SAVERS who trust Google to help them find the best interest rates could end up transferring their money to crooks.

Bogus broker sites boasting of Isas and bonds that return up to 29 per cent appear as ads at the top of Google search results, research by Sun Money shows.

Dozens have already been reported and taken down this year but they are quickly replaced with new ones, campaigners warn.

Examples include sites such as fixedincome.org.uk, directfixedincome.com and fixedreturnbonds.co.uk which appeared when savings bonds were searched for.

An investment ad appears at the top of Google search results

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued warnings about these sites and they are no longer live.

Campaigner Mark Taber, who has reported 100 bogus ads to Google this year, explains that many of the sites have the same template, which is copied from one web address to another.

He says: “It’s like the whack-a-mole game. My advice is never to use Google to search for investments or savings.”

Earnings from scams did, though, help drive up Google’s search revenue to £76billion last year.

Meanwhile, investment scams cost Brits £339million last year, with the FCA forced to spend £600,000 of taxpayers’ money on promoting its own warnings in the search results.

But the FCA has limited powers over Google because the search engine is based outside the UK, in the US.

Insurance scam ads

THOUSANDS of motorists are driving uninsured due to buying sham cover advertised on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Insurance scammers, known as ghost brokers, appear on social media claiming to offer fully comp policies from big brands such as Admiral, Hastings Direct, Aviva and Churchill.

Insurer Direct Line this week warned that ghost brokers either sell non-existent policies, use false information to secure a policy in someone’s name, or buy a legitimate policy, then cancel it while pocketing the refund.

In one case seen by the firm, a scammer offered the first five people to contact them a car insurance policy for just £200 – which is impossible to guarantee.

Many promise “£50 to refer a friend” to attract victims. Driving without valid insurance can bring a £300 fine and six penalty points.

Aviva detected 3,100 car insurance applications linked to fake policies last year and is investigating a further 4,000.

Crypto con ads

SHAM Bitcoin schemes are falsely claiming to have the backing of well-known people such as money guru Martin Lewis and TV chef Gordon Ramsay.

Microsoft was recently profiting from an ad wrongly claiming Ramsay had made millions from a company called Profit Bitcoin.

It removed it from the tech giant’s MSN news site following a complaint.

Crypto currency ad falsely claims to have the backing of money guru Martin Lewis

But The Sun had told how this same fake claim about Ramsay had tricked pensioner Mike Hildebrand and wife Dorothy, both 79, from Kent, out of around £40,000 of their savings.

Microsoft said it would remove fraudulent ads when it became aware of them.

Facebook was last year sued by savers’ guru Martin Lewis, founder of Money Saving Expert (MSE), for displaying scam ads claiming he had endorsed various crypto schemes, and the case was later settled out of court.

But MSE confirmed dodgy ads featuring Martin are still appearing on Facebook, and also now on the social media firm’s sister site Instagram.

How to stay safe online

  • Steer clear of little-known savings and investments brokers that appear in Google Ads.
  • Use Moneyfacts or Money.co.uk to look for savings accounts. Or use a trusted price comparison site such as uSwitch for insurance.
  • Check with the Financial Conduct Authority to see if a firm is authorised or registered with it before using them.
  • Be wary of any ads promising sky-high returns. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  •  Don’t buy car insurance advertised by brokers on social media.
  •  Always contact your insurer directly after an accident. Never go through a claims management firm.

Our demands

  • Google, Facebook and other social media platforms to vet financial advertisers to ensure they are authorised by the regulator.
  • Government to change the law to force them to do this.
  •  Sites to develop better detection systems to stop individuals from posting fraudulent adverts.
  • Big platforms to donate revenue made from scam firms to victims of scams.


Royal Mint releases THREE 50ps with dinosaurs on them and they could be worth £840

THE Royal Mint has released three new 50p coins featuring dinosaurs for the first time ever, and they could be worth several hundred pounds.

The coins feature three different dinosaurs, including the Megalosaurus, the Iguanodon and the Hylaeosaurus.

The Royal Mint is releasing coins featuring dinosaurs for the first time ever

They’ve been designed by palaeontologists at the Natural History Museum to create an accurate reconstruction of the dinosaurs and the environment they lived in for more than 160million years.

The coins are only being released a collectors items, so it’s unlikely that they’ll end up in your spare change.

The Megalosaurus coin can be snapped up on the Royal Mint website from today, while the other two coins are launching in March and April respectively.

The prices start at £10 for the brilliant uncirculated coin, which will be available in an unlimited quantity.

What are the different types of coin?

THESE are the coins you can see from the Royal Mint:

  • Circulated – these are the coins you’ll see in your shop change.
  • Brilliant uncirculated – these coins are a higher standard than circulating and bullion coins. The machines used to strike these coins are polished and finished by hand. 
  • Proof – these are the highest quality coins produced by the Royal Mint. Machines used to make these are all hand-finished. 
  • Bullion – these coins are made from gold and silver and are usually used as an investment that aims to retain a certain value over time. 

The Royal Mint is also releasing 50,000 coloured versions of the coin at £20 each, which will feature augmented reality technology for the first time ever.

Coin owners who download the free Royal Mint Activate app can scan the coin and see facts and diagrams about the creature.

Or if you don’t mind spending even more you can get a silver proof coin for £60, a silver proof coloured version for £65 and a gold coin for a whopping £945.

Colin Bellamy of Coin Hunter couldn’t say how much the dinosaur coins could be worth, but reckons the coloured brilliant uncirculated coin will be worth the most.

He told The Sun: “The coin will be the first from The Royal Mint to be made available as Brilliant Uncirculated colour.

“This base metal colour coin is much more affordable at £20 and the 50,000 limit could well sell out.

“This is the coin that could well increase in value, especially as it is the first coin in a set of three.”

Is your small change worth a fortune?

IF you think that you might have a rare coin then you might be able to make a real mint.

The most valuable coins are usually those with a low mintage or an error.

These are often deemed the most valuable by collectors.

You should check how much the coin is selling for on eBay.

Search the full name of the coin, select the “sold” listing and then toggle the search to “highest value”.

It will give you an idea of the amount of money that the coin is going for.

You can either choose to sell the coin on eBay or through a specialist such as ChangeChecker.org.

If you choose the auction website then remember to set a minimum price that is higher or at the very least equal to the face value of the coin.

Even if your coin “sells” on eBay for a high price there’s no guarantee that the buyer will cough up.

It its terms and conditions, the auction website states that bidders enter a “legally binding contract to purchase an item”, but there’s no way to enforce this rule in reality.

The most eBay can do is add a note to their account for the unpaid item or remove their ability to bid and buy.

Rachel Hooper of Changechecker said: “We expect these coins to be very popular with collectors, especially considering this is the first time ever dinosaurs have featured on a UK coin.

“Looking back at the popularity of previous 50p series such as the 2012 Olympic 50ps and the Beatrix Potter coins from 2016, 2017 and 2018, we would expect demand for these new coins to be high as collectors look to add all three to their collection.”

If the coins rise in value similar to the Beatrix Potter designs, they could be worth several hundred of pounds down the line.

In 2018, a previous version of 50p coins featuring Peter Rabbit sold on eBay for as much £840 – 1,650 per cent more than its face value.

Last month, a rare 50p featuring the Snowman sold on eBay for £336 – that’s 672 times face value.

The Royal Mint also revealed that Team GB and the 75th anniversary of VE Day are to be commemorated on coins this year.

Plus, legendary rockers Queen became the first British band to join Queen ­Elizabeth II on a commemorative coin.


War veteran reveals how brave service dogs have helped to tranform his life

WHEN Allen Parton returned from the first Gulf War with a catastophric brain injury, his wife had to teach him about their life as his memory had been wiped.

A car crash while on duty as a Royal Naval Chief Petty Officer led to him being treated in hospital back in England for five years.

Allan’s dogs inspired him to launch a charity helping other injur­ed service personnel

He was in a wheelchair, unable to read, write, walk or talk.

Allen was “in a pit of despair” and he attempted suicide twice. Then help came his way in the form of three amazing assistance dogs: Endal, Endal Junior and Rookie. They inspired him to launch a charity helping other injur­ed service personnel. It was called Hounds For Heroes and celebrates its tenth year this month.

Allen, 60, of Clanfield, Hants, said: “After I was injured I didn’t know what day of the week it was. I needed help to do basic things. I couldn’t even talk, read or write and I found that so hard. I had two major attempts of suicide, not cries for help, but the endgame, because I didn’t want to go on.”

But with the help of the support dogs along with his wife Sandra, 60, and children Zoe, 33, and Liam 34, he “learned to live again”. Allen met his first dog — an 11-month-old Labrador pup called Endal — by chance. His daycare bus did not turn up so he accompanied Sandra to her volunteer role working with assistance dogs.

Allen said: “A crazy, yellow ball of fluff bounced into my life that day called Endal. He wouldn’t leave me alone and by the end of the day I knew we would be inseparable. He dragged me out from that terrible pit of despair I’d been in.”

Allen met his first dog — an 11-month-old Labrador pup called Endal — by chance

Endal became his assistance dog and Allen used more than 100 signs to communicate with him, such as touching his chin for him to bring him a razor and his head for a hat. Over time and with intensive rehabilitation, Allen’s speech returned. He said: “As I learned to speak again so Endal adapted with me.”

During the next 13 years together, the dog helped him with operating traffic lights, lift buttons, shopping and even withdrawing at cashpoints. In 2008 Allen welcomed a second dog, EJ, so Endal could enjoy a semi-retirement. And after Endal died the following year, EJ took over full-time.

Today, the 13-year-old dog can perform more than 500 tasks to help Allen with his day-to-day life, including tapping his Oyster travel card.

He is even trained to save Allen if he falls unconscious in the bath, by pulling the plug and using his mouth to keep Allen’s head above water. He said: “While my memories from before the accident are still very much lost to me, our family with our dogs have rebuilt a new life.”

Rookie, an eight-year-old golden retriever, who is used to assess the needs of prospective new owners for Hounds For Heroes, also lives with the family as a pet.

Allen said: “Everyone thinks that when the guns go quiet in the battlefield the battle with disability and trauma ends, but it doesn’t. Dogs have a huge part to play in that rehabilitation — and my three incredible dogs are proof that they really are man’s best friend.”

Star of the week

MEET MAX the moggy who was left with one eye and half a tail after using up most of his nine lives.

The puss suffered from advanced conjunctivitis, which never cleared up with antibiotics and eventually infected the core of his eyeball, so it had to be removed.

In his remaining eye he has glaucoma – where the optic nerve is damaged – so is almost blind. Most of his tail was bitten off during a fight with a fox in his garden and he’s had numerous near misses and scrapes.

His owner, Dan Bermingham-Shaw, 25, of London, said: “More often than not, Max is bumping into things, but he’s still a character.

“He might look pretty scary, but he is a very happy cat.”

Pet vet

Sean McCormack, head vet at the tailored food firm tails.com

JOSH HENNING, 26 has a Persian cat named Fluffy who loves to bring mice and spiders into the family home.

Q: Why does my cat bring in dead animals to the kitchen after she’s been out for a wander? Does she think I can’t hunt for myself?

Fluffy loves you and wants to share delicious treats as a gift. This is natural for cats, from parental instincts. It is usually more common in female cats but both sexes will do it.

A: Unfortunately, cats who are good hunters can be really harmful to local wildlife. If you want to reduce the number of animals killed and brought home, a good idea is to keep her in at night, dawn and dusk when most wildlife is active. And instead of fitting one bell to her collar, fit two. Many cats learn to stalk prey silently, with a single bell, but find it much harder with two.

KATIE MASSEY, 31, of Whitton, South West London takes her six-year-old Husky Trixie out every day for her walk, but she loves to cause a commotion with other dogs.

Q: Do dogs have different ‘languages’? Can they understand each other when they howl and bark? I think sometimes that Trixie is misunderstood.

A: Dogs very definitely have their own language. One of the reasons we often misinterpret their behaviour and emotions is that we try to explain their behaviour using our own language.

Howling is in every dog’s vocab-ulary, but certain breeds are more prone to doing it, like Huskies and Malamutes.

Generally it’s a rallying call when other dogs are around, and everyone is excited.

Trixie’s probably saying: “Come on guys, let’s get this party started.”

Or sometimes, if she’s a little nervous of some of the dogs in the group, she may be seeking reass-urance from the familiar ones that she’s not alone.

  • Send your questions for the Pet Vet to sundaypets@the-sun.co.uk

Win pet feeder

LOOKING for something to keep your dog warm over Christmas?

GREAT for hungry pets if you’re unexpectedly delayed home, the Smart Feed Automatic Dog and Cat Feeders mean you can feed your furry friend at the click of an app. The feeders are worth £169.99 and we have two up for grabs.

For a chance to win, send an email marked FEEDER to sundaypets@the-sun.co.uk.


Energy price cap to fall by £17 a year – but you can switch and save now

MILLIONS of households will save £17 a year on their energy bills after Ofgem announced plans to lower the price cap.

The cap is a limit on how much suppliers can charge for electricity and gas – but customers could save even more on their bills by shopping around now.

PA:Press Association

The default energy price gap is set to fall by £17 from April[/caption]

The default price cap, which affects around 11 million homes on standard variable tariffs (SVR), is set to fall from £1,179 to £1,162.

The pre-payment meter cap, which will benefit a further 4 million households, will fall from £1,217 to £1,200.

As a result, around 41 suppliers will now have to lower prices – but bill payers will have to wait until April 1 before the price drop comes into force.

Ofgem put the reduction down to wholesale energy prices continuing to fall between August 2019 and January 2020.

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The price cap on energy bills was introduced by Theresa may back in January last year and set at £1,137.

During 2019, households protected by the default price cap are estimated to have saved £1 billion on their energy bills.

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive at Ofgem, said: “The default price cap is designed to protect consumers who do not switch from overpaying for their energy, whilst encouraging competition in the retail market.

“Today’s announcement is further good news for the 15 million households covered by both price caps who will see their energy bills fall in April.”

How to find a cheaper energy deal

FIRSTLY, you’ll need to have a recent bill to hand. This will have all the details you need, including the name of your tariff and your recent spending on gas

  • Use a comparison website: Customers can use websites such as uSwitch.com or Energyhelpline.com to compare tariffs and find a cheaper deal. You could save up to £400 a year if you’ve never switched before.
  • There are other service you can turn to: MoneySavingExpert’s Cheap Energy Club will let you set up an email reminder that alerts you when cheaper deals become available.
  • Things to do before you switch: Compare prices and before you switch check to see if you can get cachback from a website like Quidco or TopCashback

While millions of households are set to benefit from the cap, they could save even more by switching supplier.

In fact, Ofgem says switching from a default tariff to a cheaper deal could save a typical household up to £305.

Alex Dickson, head of research at Switchcraft.co.uk, says: “If consumers think the cap will protect them from paying over the odds for energy, they are sadly mistaken.

“The gap between the default price cap and market leading energy deals is as wide as it’s ever been.”

To see if you can slash your energy bills, use a comparison site to find the cheapest deal for you.

It takes minutes to do and you could save hundreds of pounds, as the cheapest tariffs are only available through these sites.

You’ll need to fill in your name, address and who your existing provider is.

According to Uswitch, the cheapest fixed-rate deal currently on the market is by Utility Point, which charges an average of £785 for a 12-month plan.

If you’re on a pre-payment metre, the best fixed-rate deal is by Bulb, where you’ll pay an average of £1,068 over 12 months.

MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis recently warned how 11million households are overpaying on energy bills.

Three energy companies will pay £10.5million after one million people were left without power last August.

However, back in October, ministers warned how homes without smart meters face a massive energy bill hike.


Asda cuts fuel prices for the second time in one week by up to 4p per litre

ASDA has slashed fuel prices for the second time in one week, knocking another 2p per litre off unleaded petrol and 4p per litre off diesel.

That means from today, any driver filling up at an Asda pump will pay no more than 118.7p per litre on unleaded and 120.7p per litre on diesel.

Getty – Contributor

Asda has slashed the price of both petrol and diesel, making it cheaper for drivers to fill up[/caption]

The new price is available at all of Asda’s 322 petrol stations across the UK, and it comes just seven days after the supermarket launched its first fuel reduction of the year.

Asda cut 3p off per litre of both petrol and diesel last Wednesday, January 29, sparking a fresh pump price war.

In response to Asda, Tesco also announced cuts of up to 3p across all of its forecourts, starting on the same day.

At the same time, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s launched similar price drops which started on January 31.

Ways to cut down on your fuel costs

HERE are some tips on how you can slash the cost of fuel

  1. Make your car more fuel-efficient. You can do this by keeping your tyres inflated, taking the roof rack off, emptying your car of clutter and turning off your air con when driving at lower speeds.
  2. Find the cheapest fuel prices. PetrolPrices.com and Confused.com allows you to search prices of UK petrol stations. All you need to do is enter in your postcode and tell it how far you want to travel (up to 20 miles).
  3. Drive more efficiently. Some ways to do this, include:
  • Accelerate gradually without over-revving
  • Always drive on the highest possible gear
  • If you can, allow your car to slow down naturally as your brake is a money burner
  • Re-starting your car is expensive, if you can keep moving

We’ve asked Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s if they’re planning further price cuts and we’ll update this article when we get a response.

It comes after new figures from the RAC today revealed how both petrol and diesel prices have risen across supermarket fuel pumps in January despite a big fall in wholesale costs.

The wholesale price of petrol fell by 4.23p and diesel by 7.5p per litre last month, yet the average pump price increased by 0.92p and 0.96p respectively during the same time.

As of January 30, the average UK price of a litre of unleaded stood at 127.60p while a litre of diesel cost 132.04p.

Wholesale fuel costs fell as oil prices dropped in January due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, which impacted global demand for oil.

RAC’s fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “January was a perfect example of ‘rocket and feather’ pricing where prices go up far faster than they come down.”

For drivers look to save some cash at the pumps, Tesco is currently offering 5p a litre off fuel but only if you spend at least £50.

Morrisons offered the same discount on a minimum spend of £40 earlier this month, but this expired on January 19.

Last month, exclusive research by The Sun revealed how drivers are paying extra £5 to fill up as fuel firms refuse to pass on price drops.

Here’s where motorists are forking out the most for their fuel – are you living in an expensive area?

Meanwhile, we round-up ways to cut your fuel costs.