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How 75% of Top Brands Are Falling Prey to Fraud Through Google Search Ads

Scammers are reportedly tricking people by impersonating the brand's domain as well as ad copy.
Cover Image Source: Google Search |Pexels | Photo by Pixabay
Cover Image Source: Google Search |Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

Three-quarters of leading brands in the US and the UK are reportedly falling victim to identity theft in Google Search Ads. As a result, many of these companies are experiencing financial losses for the targeted business and the customers are becoming victims of fraud, per a new report by search marketing security firm, Marcode, as reported by Search Engine Land

Source: GettyImages | Justin Sullivan  Staff
Google office | GettyImages | Justin Sullivan Staff

Scammers are reportedly tricking people by impersonating the brand's domain as well as ad copy. They pay for the ad placements that appear in the search results of the victim. The targeted brands' real ads are excluded from search because of Google's policy of serving just one ad per domain. These brands are often oblivious to the fact that they have been victims of fraud as the issue tends to go undetected due to limitations in Google's internal reporting tools.

Brands should care if the customers fall victim to fraud under your brand's name as it could damage the brand's reputation. If the business also relies on Google Ads, then these scams could limit the brand's reach and reduce your ROI.

Phishing scams are too dangerous as they appear to be genuine ads. Scammers also invest in making fake websites that look like the real ones to a certain extent. A spokesperson for Marcode says, "We’re aware that multiple complaints about these issues were filed with Google, as we’ve collaborated with some of the affected brands." "Interestingly, during the period of creating this report, we noticed a significant decline in the frequency of such scams in the US and UK," he added. “However, these bad actor accounts shifted their focus to target Germany while seemingly pulling out of the US and UK market," he concluded. 

Online scams Pexels | by Anna Tarazevich
Online scams | Pexels | by Anna Tarazevich

Other scams like affiliate scams were found to be more prevalent than fraud as they affected over 75% of the sites in the study. In a hijacked scenario, the user is directed to the brand's website with an affiliate code. The spokesperson said that affiliate marketing has its advantages as they can issue lies "in the presence of bad actors within these networks." "A brand decides to engage in affiliate marketing, but networks need to improve their vetting processes," he added. Their focus is on how these bad actors manage to stay hidden and the potential negative impact it has on brands, he mentioned. 

It was reported that over 120 brands monitored, 90 experienced some kind of hacking. The report also revealed that over 90 days, there were over persistent phishing scams on 20 brands. It was also revealed that affiliate hijacking affects more than 67% of brand search traffic for the worst-hit brands.

Fraud | Pixabay | Geralt
Fraud | Pixabay | Geralt

Google's spokesperson says that bad actors are constantly evolving their techniques and looking for new ways to bypass enforcement. However, we invest heavily in creating and enforcing policies that protect advertisers from a range of abuse including brand impersonation, phishing attempts, and trademark infringement. In 2022, they removed over 5.2 billion ads, restricted over 4.3 billion ads, and suspended over 6.7 million advertiser accounts. The numbers are indeed scary.