The fake mortgage programs that brought Google under recent scrutiny don't seem to be run by Google-exclusive con artists. Mortgage scams that claim to provide assistance from the U.S. government have also been located in Microsoft adCenter. Microsoft has cooperated in banning the associated advertisers from Bing and Yahoo search results.
According to the statement from SIGTARP (the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program), at least 125 illicit companies of this nature were identified. The investigation, however, remains ongoing.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has extended its cooperation in much the same way Google did earlier on in the investigation. Microsoft proactively shut down the accounts of more than 400 advertisers that were connected to the 125 mortgage scam companies.
"Many homeowners who have fallen prey to these scams were enticed by web banner ads and online search advertisements that promised, for a fee, to help lower mortgage payments," according to Christy Romero, Deputy Special Inspector General for SIGTARP.
In addition to working with Google and Microsoft to shut down these ads (which Romero states will "dramatically decrease the scope and scale of these scams"), SIGTARP hopes to educate home owners.
According to the official SIGTARP statement, "Homeowners can protect themselves from becoming a victim of these scams by seeking a HAMP mortgage modification directly through their lender or mortgage servicer or through HUD-approved housing counselors." The HAMP program is free of charge and approved by the U.S. government.
Having Microsoft fall to the same issue re-raises the question of ad platform responsibility. Should Microsoft have spotted these ads prior to posting them on Bing and Yahoo? Is it likely they ignored them for profit alone? Or is it simply too much to expect a company to vett their potential ads so thoroughly? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
The Original Search Marketing Event is Back!
SES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start - to help you master being found on search engines. Register today!