All posts in “Scams”

Google cracked down on 2.3 billion bad ads last year

Google has published its yearly transparency report detailing the search giant's fight with bad actors on its advertising network.
Google has published its yearly transparency report detailing the search giant’s fight with bad actors on its advertising network.

Image: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Google published its yearly look at “bad ads” on Thursday, detailing how the company fought bad advertising practices in 2018.

In total, the search giant took down 2.3 billion ads that violated its advertising policies last year. That’s more than 6 million bad ads removed every day. 

This number is down from the previous year when Google reported it eliminated 3.2 billion ads from its network.

Google also terminated its relationship with nearly one million bad advertiser accounts and almost 734,000 publishers and app developers — close to double the amount from 2017. The company also removed ads from nearly 28 million webpages and 1.5 million apps.

In the report, Google details specific industries and niches that require specific new ad policies in 2018. The company provides examples such as for-profit bail bond providers, which it bans from advertising through its ad network. Google says the decision was made due to evidence that these providers take advantage of vulnerable communities. The company removed more than 531,000 ads for bail bonds last year.

In total, Google created 31 new ad policies to stop bad ads in problematic areas related to cryptocurrency, ticket resellers, third-party tech support, and local services such as bail bonds and addiction treatment facilities. For example, the company now bans ads promoting addiction treatment services unless the advertiser is a certified addiction treatment provider. It also removed around 58.8 million advertisements for phishing scams from its network.

When it comes to fake news and the political sphere, Google shares that it had verified 143,000 election advertisements in the U.S., thanks to a new policy it rolled out last year. The company took down ads from around 1.2 million pages, 22,000 apps, and 15,000 sites for violating policies related to misinformation and hateful or low quality content.

The company also announced a new policy manager for its Google Ads program in order to help advertisers create ads that comply with its advertising policies.

The internet is full of scam artists and malicious actors searching for targets. Google’s course of action to deter bad advertisers and publishers from its networks is fairly simple: remove their economic incentives. The company seems to be doing a good job at removing ads that break its rules. The real challenge going forward, judging by Google’s updated policies, is keeping up with the evolving ways of these malicious actors. 

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Google Chrome will warn you before you fall for a phone subscription scam

About to fall into a mobile subscription scam? Google Chrome will give you a heads up.
About to fall into a mobile subscription scam? Google Chrome will give you a heads up.

Image: Getty Images/Cultura RF

Found yourself subscribed to a shady ringtone service? Even though it’s 2018? Google Chrome will soon stop you from falling into that trap.

In an upcoming version of Chrome, the browser will throw up a warning page when it suspects users could be unwittingly subscribed to a direct billing scam, leaving them with unexpected charges on their next bill.

Chrome will detect if the subscription information on a webpage is insufficient, and like its other warnings, give the user the opportunity to go back, or proceed if they like.

The warning page.

The warning page.

Image: google

Google has unveiled a series of best practices for mobile billing on Chrome, which includes telling the user how much they’ll be charged, what they’ll be charged for, how long for, and ensuring those details are clear and visible.

“We want to make sure Chrome users understand when they are going through a billing flow and trust that they’ll be able to make informed decisions while browsing the web,” reads a blog post by Google.

An example of a mobile subscription scam.

An example of a mobile subscription scam.

Image: google

The warning page will launch in Chrome 71, which is set to release in December. 

It also has a feature which blocks all ads from a website if they’re deemed to be abusive, in that they trick users to open new tabs or download files.

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Chrome adds new security features to stop mobile subscription scams

Google today announced that Chrome will soon get a new feature that aims to stop mobile subscription scams. Those are the kind of sites that ask you for your phone number and that then, unbeknownst to you, sign you up for a mobile subscription that’s billed through your carrier. Starting with the launch of Chrome 71 in December, Google will pop up a prominent warning when a site doesn’t make it clear that users are signing up for a mobile subscription.

To make sure that developers who are legitimately using this flow to offer users subscription don’t get caught up in this new system, Google also published a set of best practices for mobile billing today. Generally, developers are expected to make their billing information visible and obvious to users, display the actual cost and have a simple and straightforward fee structure.

If that information is not available, Google will through up a prominent full-page warning, but users can always opt to proceed. Before throwing up the warning page, Google will notify webmasters in the Search Console when it detects a potential scam (there’s always a chance for false positives, after all).

This new feature will be available on both mobile and desktop, as well as in Android’s WebView.

Even walking Bitconnect meme Carlos Matos is now calling bitcoin a scam

BITCONNNNNEEEEEEECT!!!!
BITCONNNNNEEEEEEECT!!!!

Image: screenshot bitconnect

You know you’re in trouble when you’ve lost Carlos Matos.

The walking meme made famous by his unbridled enthusiasm for Bitconnect, a cryptocurrency project strongly resembling a Ponzi scheme that shut down its lending and exchange platform in January, is now here to offer some measured words of caution. Namely, stay the hell away from bitcoin

“Bitcoin Is A Scam,” he tweeted on October 26. “Sell Everything It’s NEVER Going Back Up”

Matos, of course, is best known for promoting a likely scam himself. He launched into meme infamy in October of 2017 after a video of him singing Bitconnect’s praises went viral. 

Importantly, this was all before the price of a BCC token shot up to around $437, and then crashed back down to its current price of $.67. 

If you haven’t seen the clip, recorded at a Bitconnect gala in Thailand, you should go ahead and watch it now. We’ll wait. 

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His proclamations of “I love Bitconnect!” were endlessly remixed, and Matos — a self-proclaimed Bitconnect investor — quickly became the face of the project.

Needless to say, none of this worked out so well for him. Even John Oliver took a swing at Matos on Last Week Tonight.

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And while Matos surely regrets the day he heard of Bitconnect, you can’t say he didn’t learn anything from the mess he helped create. 

Which, to be clear, is that bitcoin is a scam. 

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Google restricts tech support ads, thanks to how bad many of them are

Google announced that it'll be restricting tech support ads.
Google announced that it’ll be restricting tech support ads.

Image: Getty Images/fStop

Tech support scams are a problem on the internet, and Google is trying to stop people from getting tangled in them through their ads.

It’s decided to restrict ads by third-party technical support providers, as well as making these businesses verify themselves.

“As the fraudulent activity takes place off our platform, it’s increasingly difficult to separate the bad actors from the legitimate providers,” reads a post by Google’s director of global product policy, David Graff, on Friday.

“That’s why in the coming months, we will roll out a verification program to ensure that only legitimate providers of third-party tech support can use our platform to reach consumers.”

The announcement comes following a Wall Street Journal investigation on these scams. It included a particularly bad ad purporting to be from Apple, which appeared when one searched for the terms “apple tech support” on Google.

In this case, the ad showed a URL for Apple’s official website, but also displayed and linked to a phone number belonging to a tech support scammer.

A 2018 study by cited by the newspaper found that 72 percent of sponsored ads on major search engines related to tech support queries linked to scams.

Google has implemented verification checks to combat fraud other problematic categories, like locksmith services and addiction treatment centers. 

It’s also banned ads for payday loans, bail bonds services, and cryptocurrency or initial coin offering (ICO) related content.

While the move to restrict ads will certainly stop people from getting tricked via Google’s ads, tech support scams will continue to cause trouble through methods like cold-calling and intrusive pop-ups.

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