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VouchedFor clamps down on fake adviser reviews

VouchedFor clamps down on fake adviser reviews

VouchedFor has stepped up its spot checks on adviser reviews left by clients in a bid to stamp out fraudulent activity on the site. 

Spot checks of some level have always been part of the site’s review verification, alongside an algorithm that looks for fraudulent reviews and adviser confirmation of a client. 

However, VouchedFor told FTAdviser that since April 2019, it has stepped these up by randomly asking advisers for evidence that a reviewer is a client. 

Alex Whitson, managing director at VouchedFor, said: "As part of the VouchedFor standard, we're continually strengthening the checks that we do.

"This benefits our VouchedFor members by offering further, independent validation of the great job they are doing for their clients. It also benefits consumers by increasing their confidence in VouchedFor advisers and the advice process as a whole."

Mr Whitson said since April VouchedFor has spot-checked 166 reviews and 165 were found to be genuine. 

One adviser was removed from the platform as, according to Mr Whitson, he was "unwilling or unable to provide evidence that the reviewer was a client".

He added: "The response to us increasing our review spot checks from the vast majority of our members, who are typically big supporters of greater transparency and checks, has been very positive."

But Filip Slipaczek, an adviser and senior partner at Slipaczek Chartered Financial Planners, who was subject to two client review checks in just over a month, said VouchedFor should focus its attention on the information contained in adviser profiles instead.

He said many in the advice industry were more concerned about "the false misrepresentation of advisers claiming to have qualifications that they do not hold".

He pointed to the false use of individual or corporate chartered status as an example and called upon VouchedFor to incorporate the checking of adviser qualifications as part of the verification process. 

He said: "Perhaps [the] spot checks could incorporate qualification checking and that membership of the scheme is subject to qualifications being downloaded on the individual's VouchedFor's profile.

"Moreover, in addition to [the] search criteria of best match (geographical distance) and review count, it could also include basic level 4 or level 6 adviser.

"Furthermore, the use of terms like ‘highly qualified’ when only having a basic qualification is even more misleading. Not only to potential clients, but to VouchedFor's superb reputation."

Mr Whitson said: "We currently require advisers to upload the certificates for any qualification they list on their profile. We spot check these to ensure they are accurate.

"The ultimate solution to qualification verification is for accreditation bodies to set up a real time API feed. So far they have been unwilling to do this, despite several approaches."