Can Google search strings ease adverse media screening


Adverse media is becoming increasingly important to compliance processes. With so much to check, Sigma Ratings has posed the question of whether Google search strings can make things easier.

Google search strings allow users to screen a name of an individual or company against multiple search phrases at the same time. An investigator can use additional criteria to filter results to help them check if an entity has any results related with documented past crimes or negative news.

Adverse media is used to describe negative news and information that could be detrimental to an individual, business or organisation. This can include everything from criminal records and financial issues to political scandals and public relations disasters. All of these can have implications that affect reputation, trustworthiness and more.

Adverse media screening is being advised and enforced by major regulators, including FATF and FinCEN.

As a result, adverse media screening is becoming part of the due diligence process and can identify risks, such as money laundering.

Using Google

Sigma stated that one way to search for adverse media using Google is through Boolean search. It said, “If you put the name in quotations, add “AND,” and each search term is separated by “OR,” the search engine will pick up and prioritise all results that contain any of these keywords. Queries using keywords with modifiers such as “and,” “not,” or “or” return relevant results.

“For example, typing ‘Customer name’ AND (crime OR corruption OR money laundering OR bribe) can indicate any adverse media. Stringing together words and boolean operators is a free method to identify adverse media. 

While this is helpful, a major disadvantage of using Google for an adverse media search is the potential for obtaining misinformation. Additionally, the searches will only go back so far, making all relevant information hard to find through Google.

 Furthermore, if the AML analyst receives an alert for suspected financial activities involving a company, they would need to obtain further information on the client to provide context and rule out false positives.

Sigma was also clear that firms should go beyond their news media searches. They should also be exploring reports by non-governmental organisations, third-party sources, law enforcement agencies, and government agencies.

Best practices

Sigma offered some simple pointers on how to maintain an effective adverse media screening process. This includes researching public records, going beyond news sources, using multiple keywords, keeping track of the searches and properly documenting and securely storing data.

Sigma concluded, “Our platform leverages AI-driven technology, quickly scanning through thousands of sources, including news outlets, government databases, social networks, dark web forums, and more, to sort relevant results and simplify reviews. Leveraging the latest technology means you can focus on making risk-related decisions, instead of spending time manually searching for information.

“Sigma Ratings’ AML monitoring and screening tools include access to a proprietary Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO) database that contains over 10 million records related to corporate entities around the world – helping organisations accurately identify beneficial owners as required by anti-money laundering regulations.” 

Read the full report here.

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