Seeing a Google Ad at the top of search results is pretty commonplace these days. Most users are used to seeing a Google Ad or three before seeing the actual search result they requested. Companies like Amazon, Target, Walmart, and others pay for Google Ads to get more visibility. But sometimes some nefarious actors are able to get into that top slot of your Google search and that’s not a good thing.
According to CNET, on Thursday, users doing a search on “Amazon” were shown a Google Ad for what appeared to be the official Amazon site. It turns out that the ad was fake and redirected them to a fake support site posing as Microsoft’s support team with a message saying the computer was infected with malware.
When contacted by CBS News, Google said the ad violated its policies and was removed. It’s unknown what proportion of users searching for “Amazon” were shown the ad.
“This was an abuse of our platform. We strictly prohibit advertising of illegal activity and have removed these ads and suspended the account,” a Google representative said.
While the ad appeared to be a link to Amazon, users who clicked it were instead redirected briefly to a URL of an app running on a Facebook page, CBS affiliate WHP discovered. The redirect could be used to bypass Google’s automated scam detection tools.
It’s unclear how the app redirected users outside Facebook. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.
CNET decided to call the number listed on this fake support site and interfaced with a man named “Robert.” After asking for CNET’s error code he informed them he would need to remote into their computer to fix the issue. When pressed for more information by CNET, the man “became agitated and hung up.”
It’s important to remember that during the holiday season when people are spending money, these types of scams are going to increase. Always be extra careful about the links you click and have a healthy dose of skepticism.
Last Updated on November 25, 2017.