As the largest search engine in the world, it’s no surprise brands want to take advantage of the search engine’s advertising features. Unfortunately, bad actors using Google ads pose a threat to brands and consumers alike within the platform. To protect their customers and keep their brand safe, business owners need to prepare for fake Google ads targeting their brand.
In this guide, we will break down everything brands need to know about fake Google ads, how to stop them, and safeguard their business.
Fake ads on Google are ads bought and used by fraudsters posing as businesses to scam consumers online. Though fake Google ads are unlawful and prohibited by the platform, Google has a difficult time identifying and stopping them unless they are reported.
With Google’s ad creation system, scammers can create a fake Google ad and have it live on the platform in a matter of hours. Once the fake Google ad is live, it will appear at the top of relevant search results on the platform. To a consumer, and to Google, these ads look identical to legitimate business ads, and can easily trick consumers.
Once someone is fooled and clicks on a fake ad on Google, they are then usually redirected to a phishing website. Scammers can use these fake websites for various kinds of internet scams and fraudulent activity. Some sell counterfeit products, while others simply exist to steal confidential information and further defraud consumers.
It’s difficult to define every kind of fake Google ad, because they can be created for any number of scams online. However, we have found the most common types of fake Google ads typically fit into the following categories:
As cryptocurrency continues to rise in popularity, so do the scam attempts within the industry. There have been numerous reports of fake ads on Google promoting digital crypto wallets that redirect to websites impersonating well-known brands like Phantom and MetaMask.
Scammers use domain spoofing with similar urls and pose as these brands to fool consumers into believing they are the real company. Then, they have their confidential financial and logging information stolen when they provide it to the fraudulent website. This is an escalating problem in crypto, with data from Check Point Research finding consumers who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to these scams.
To fool consumers, scammers typically try to pass themselves off as existing brands in their fake Google ads. They steal product photos and other intellectual property owned by the brand to appear as them in the advertisement. When consumers search for the brand online, the fake Google ad could come up and easily fool shoppers.
Spoof websites take brand impersonation one step further by impersonating a brand’s entire website. Scammers typically steal the content that a real brand has used to create their website to replicate it for their spoof website. Once consumers are redirected to a spoof website through a fake Google ad, it’s likely they won’t realize the site is fake.
Fake Google ads can also be used by scammers to direct consumers to websites where they sell counterfeit products. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the scammer is impersonating a brand’s entire identity, they are still infringing on the brand and defrauding consumers. Counterfeits are typically made with cheaper materials and are of lower quality, which can reflect poorly on the real brand whose product was stolen.
It’s obvious that fake Google ads pose a threat to consumers, but they are also a massive threat to the brands they target. When a brand is impersonated or has counterfeits sold of their products through fake Google ads, the effects can be detrimental to the business.
Brand owners need to be aware of the threats fake Google ads pose to their business, including:
Fake Google ads steal revenue from the brands they impersonate. The sales made by consumers on the counterfeit sites they are redirected to are sales the real brand will likely never see. It is vital that brand owners protect themselves from fake Google ads and reclaim ownership of their revenue.
Every brand wants to appear on the top of a Google search, and this becomes more difficult in a sea of fake Google ads. The more fake ads that appear in a given search mean it will be more difficult for a real brand to earn a well-ranking position. This can decrease the amount of consumers finding and clicking on a brand’s ads and make it more competitive to advertise through Google.
The unfortunate reality of online scams is that real brands pay the consequences far more often than the scammers. When a consumer is fooled by a fake Google ad and subsequently scammed, they often complain to the real brand. After all, most of these fake ads and spoof websites appear identical to the real brands, and most consumers don’t realize they’ve been scammed.
This can lead to a large increase in the amount of customer complaints a brand receives. Their customer service team may be inundated by complaints, as well as negative comments on social media and poor reviews online. This can put a strain on resources and lead to a mountain of extra work in order for the brand to handle damage control.
Possibly the biggest threat fake Google ads pose to legitimate brands is that they can damage their reputation. Consumers need to trust the brands they buy from, and base their purchasing decisions off vital social proof, like product reviews.
Nearly 90% of consumers read product reviews before making purchases, according to a Trustpilot report. Even a few negative reviews showing up on products as a result of fake Google ads could scare away would-be customers. To protect their brand identity, brand owners need to implement the proper tactics to spot and take down fake Google ads infringing on their brand.
Brand owners don’t have to let fake Google ads steal their revenue or tarnish their reputation. These are the steps brands can take to stop fake Google ads:
Consumers don’t want to get scammed. Brands can work together with their customers to keep them informed on the risks of fake Google ads, and how to avoid them. Brands should let their customers know how to identify their brand, and notify them if any fake ads of their brand are found.
If brand owners find a Fake ad on Google impersonating their brand or selling counterfeits of their products, they should report it immediately. To report a fake ad on Google, use this ad reporting form. Choose the best responses in the form, and include any additional information that is required.
Once a report has been submitted to Google, the fake ad should be resolved and taken down within a matter of days. If the fake Google ad is not removed, brand owners can send another report, or follow up with the Google support team.
The key to protecting a brand from fake Google ads is to stop them before they can become a problem. That means having a robust monitoring system that can identify fake ads and infringements. Brands can work with a revenue recovery service like Red Points that uses software to identify and take down fake ads around the clock.
Fake Google ads are vital for brand owners to monitor for and stop before they pose a threat to the brand’s reputation and revenue. If your brand is already losing revenue to fake Google ads or other online infringement, Red Points can help. Learn more about our software, and see how you can protect your brand identity with Red Points.