Google will restrict advertisements placed by third-party technical support providers, in an effort to stem a rising tide of abuse and fraud by scammers who offer to fix non-existent problems on consumers’ computers.
The restriction for tech support ads comes after Google collaborated with law enforcement and government agencies to address abuse in the area, the company’s director of public policy David Graff wrote.
All ads for technical support will be restricted worldwide, even for legitimate providers, Graff said.
Google’s banned such ads because the company finds it increasingly difficult to tell scammers from legitimate providers, as the fraudulent activity happens away from the company’s platform.
Google is working on a verification programme for legitimate technical support providers, akin to how it checks local locksmith services and addiction treatment centres for fraud, Graff said.
Graff added that Google has a team of engineers, policy experts, product managers and other staff who wage a daily fight against bad actors who game the company’s advertising systems.
The scale of fraudulent advertising on Google is considerable.
Last year, Google took down over 3.2 billion ads that violated its policies.
“That’s more than 100 bad ads per second,” Graff said.
In March this year, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) noted that the recorded number of tech support scams rose by 86 per cent between 2016 and 2017.
Victims in 85 countries filed complaints with the IC3, with losses hitting US$15 million (A$21 million) a year.
The scams have evolved beyond trying to extract money from users for fixing non-existent faults or removing viruses, to planting malware that encrypts files in order to extort money to unlock them, and stealing virtual currency, IC3 said.
IC3 also said that scammers use search engine advertising and pay to have their links to show higher in the results so as to attract users looking for help.