What is Adverse Media?

The term ‘adverse media’ refers to any and all negative news about your potential customer or client, found across a wide range of sources. Carrying out an adverse media screening is an important part of your AML checks, as it reduces the risk of going into business with a company or individual with a history of money launderingfraud and other financial crimes

Sources of Adverse Media

It’s often wrongly assumed that adverse media only includes negative information from traditional sources of news, such as national and local newspapers or TV and radio broadcasts.

Both the media itself and the way we consume it has changed rapidly in recent years, so proper adverse media checks should reflect this. That means they need to consider information found in unstructured sources as well, such as social media, online forums and the public databases of large international organisations too. 

Take a look at this list of potential adverse media sources, to get an idea of where you might find negative information:

  • National newspapers, like The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail or The Sun
  • TV news channels, such as BBC News, ITV News and Channel 4 News
  • Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn
  • Online forums, for example Quora or Reddit
  • YouTube
  • Blogs belonging to both businesses and individuals
  • Databases maintained by regulatory bodies like the FATF

What kind of information constitutes adverse media?

A thoroughly executed adverse media screening can flag up all kinds of negative information, like a criminal record or historic sanction. Here are a few key adverse media examples, or things you might uncover about a potential client or customer: 

  • Involvement in terrorism financing
  • A history of financial crime
  • Appearing on a sanctions list, past or present
  • Accusations of fraud
  • Involvement with cybercrime
  • A history of violent or sexual crimes
  • Human trafficking


Even if your adverse media report doesn’t return these more extreme kinds of negative news, your screening tool might raise other red flags – such as reputational damage or industry rumours. These are more likely to be found in news outlets, or the unstructured sources we mentioned above, like blogs.   

What is an adverse media search?

SmartSearch carries out adverse media searches on any client which shows up with sanctions, special interest persons (SIPs)politically exposed persons (PEPs), or anything else that could jeopardize the financial integrity of your business.

An adverse media search is the lengthy process of checking public records (including newspaper archives, databases, and the unstructured sources we mentioned previously) for your prospective client’s name and address.

These checks are essentially a form of risk-assessment; they will help you to identify whether your client is a liability, and if they could endanger the security of your business.

As there’s no standardised way of doing this; it’s almost impossible to carry out an exhaustive adverse media search manually, even with a great deal of time. That’s why at SmartSearch, we use automated checks to get the best possible results. If there’s a match with your potential customer, a more detailed manual analysis then takes place.

Adverse Media Pitfalls to Avoid

While adverse media screening is vital in making sure that your business is AML compliant, and doing your due diligence, there are several pitfalls to be aware of. Here are the key things to bear in mind:

- There’s more “fake news” circulating the media than ever before, so it can sometimes be difficult to work out what a credible and trustworthy news source looks like.

Manual adverse media checks can be very time consuming, if you try to carry them out yourself. It’s difficult to know that you’ve covered all bases, unless you have a sophisticated system in place for this kind of screening.

- Your business might not have access to all the records you need to search, in order to carry out your adverse media checks thoroughly.

- There could be news coverage about your potential client or customer which is published in a different country. In these cases, the language barrier can also prove to be a problem.

SmartSearch Makes Adverse Media Easy

According to the FATF Recommendations, ‘financial institutions should understand the client’s reputation, including if they were previously investigated for money laundering, terrorist financing or if they faced regulatory penalties.’ SmartSearch provides a full-service AML solution, including extensive adverse media checks, which can help you to comply with these recommendations.  

If we do find any negative information surrounding your client in public data sources, we’ll build a comprehensive adverse media profile. We’ll then pass this information on to you, so that you’re able to do Enhanced Customer Due Diligence – but we can help with this too. 

 We don’t just look for historic adverse media either, but continue to carry out these checks as part of the ongoing monitoring process, especially in the case of clients who are high-risk. 

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