A US investigation into deceptive advertising on Google, which has already seen 125 mortgage scam sites being closed down, is to be extended to look at Bing and Yahoo! too.
The announcement confirms fears that all search engines had been used for criminal gain, and could well just be the tip of the iceberg.
In the mortgage scam which is under investigation, desperate US home owners at risk of losing their property were targeted.
Searches using phrases including the word ‘foreclosure’ would return ads from the scammers. When landing on the site, visitors were promised assistance to retain their home through a Federal programme which could modify payment terms.
Despite many victims giving upfront fees for the service, and even cases of sending their mortgage payments to the companies, no help was given.
The investigation will also see a concerted effort to clean up illegal activity online, something which Consumer Watchdog has been calling for, for quite some time.
Indeed, the group who first brought the mortgage scam to light, want the search engines to be prosecuted for their role in the affair.
This is unlikely to happen of course, but it does raise an interesting question regards how much responsibility search engines should have for adverts.
An interesting aside is that all major search engines have agreed that all advertising will be pulled from advertisers and agencies linked to the scam.
This is certainly positive news for the hundreds of people affected by scams each month, but there is still much work to be done to stop scam sites multiplying as they so easily can.