The three most popular search engines – Google, Yahoo! and Bing – are being examined by federal investigators who are trying to track down scammers using the websites as platforms to advertise fraudulent schemes that target homeowners, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Typical ads placed online by scammers include promises of assistance for homeowners looking to avoid having their homes foreclosed on them. One favorite trick of these scammers is to claim that they can assist homeowners to obtain mortgage refinancing through government-backed programs, something that adds legitimacy to their claims. Scammers are increasingly turning to the internet to advertise their deceptive schemes, targeting specific phrases that troubled homeowners search for, such as “stop foreclosure” or “foreclosure assistance”.
One of the most common ways these scammers obtain money is to ask for cash upfront to process the homeowner’s refinancing application, or else they will direct homeowners to send their mortgage payments to them instead of their lender.
The report quoted the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program as saying that since Monday, investigators have discovered at least 125 online mortgage scams being advertised through search engines.
All three search engines have already stated that they will no longer be publishing advertisements made by any agencies that are suspected of scamming homeowners.
Microsoft, who own the Bing search engine, announced in a statement that it fully supported the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program it its efforts to help fight mortgage scams and was committed to preventing any fraudulent advertising taking place on its site.