Google to tech-support scammers: We're about to get even tougher on your ads

A new verification system for all tech-support advertisers aims to block scammers.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google is rolling out a new verification system to combat a rise in misleading ads from third-party technical-support services.

Google announced it will implement new restrictions on all tech-support ads after the Wall Street Journal found that fraudsters have been buying ads from Google and posing as authorized service agents for Apple.

"We've seen a rise in misleading ad experiences stemming from third-party technical support providers and have decided to begin restricting ads in this category globally," said David Graff, Google's director of global product policy.

Google isn't banning all third-party tech-support ads as Microsoft did for Bing in 2016. But rather it will use a verification program to ensure only legitimate third-party tech-support providers can use its ad network to reach consumers.

The new restrictions on this ad category apply globally while the tech-support verification program will be rolled out in coming months.

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It's not clear what type of verification program it will roll out, but Google has existing advanced verification programs for local locksmith services and addiction treatment centers to prevent fraud. Google has previously banned some ad categories altogether, including those for short-term payday loans, and more recently bail-bond services.

The verification system was needed because Google found it increasingly difficult to sift out bad actors from legitimate businesses because the fraud takes place away from its platform.

This move could help close off one avenue tech-support scammers use to reach potential victims, but there are plenty more, including cold-calling, support-scam malware and spam with links to support-scam sites.

The overall goal of the scammers is to get victims to call a call center where an operator convinces them to install a remote-access tool, which allows the operator to display bogus error warnings.

Microsoft in 2017 received 153,000 reports from customers across the globe who had fallen for a tech-support scam. That figure was up 24 percent on 2016.

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