Tips to Avoid Advertising Scams Tricking You to Ask for Tech Support



Advertising scams that prey on Internet consumers have prompted four Internet companies to band together to fight the abuse. The scams use harmless-looking ads to trick consumers into using phony tech support that actually enable cybercriminals to invade the unsuspecting owners’ devices.

AOL, Facebook, Google and Twitter formed TrustInAds.org (trustinads.org) to warn consumers about the heinous online ads.

“Among the legitimate online ads offering valuable tech support services to consumers are some from bad actors attempting to prey on unsuspecting internet users,” said Rob Haralson, executive director of TrustInAds.org. “These bad actors, often highly sophisticated, go to great lengths to hide under the radar from the manual reviews and automated filtering technologies used to catch fraudulent ads.”

startup-594126_1280TrustInAds.org keeps consumers informed about advertising scams, will identify trends, and will warn consumer advocates and policymakers.

Typical scams

Facebook and Google learned that cybercriminals were placing ads with them to con people to visit Web sites, which advised them telephone an 800 number for tech support.

Facebook and Google deleted more than 4,000 suspicious advertisers that were tied to more than 2,400 phony tech-support Web sites.

Instead of getting assistance, consumers reached phony tech-support people. The cybercriminals talked the unsuspecting consumers into downloading software that was actually malicious malware.

The harmful apps included adware, keystroke loggers, spyware and viruses.

“While limited in volume and scope, these tech support ad scams not only present a real problem for victims, but also for advertising platforms, publishers and legitimate advertisers,” added Mr. Haralson. “Internet companies have worked hard to remove these ads from their platform, but they need consumers’ help too.”

If you spot suspicious ads on AOL, Facebook, Google or Twitter, go to trustinads.org/report.

The companies issued four tips:

1. Have a clear understanding from which provider you are soliciting tech support. 

Checking the website of the product’s provider, or calling the provider directly, should always be the first step to solving a tech support issue. However, some may choose to seek support from a third-party provider. Consumers should know who they are seeking support from, as some scammers pose as representatives as official representatives of brand-name companies.

2. Never give a password over the phone and be suspicious when asked to download software.

No legitimate company will ever ask a consumer to provide a password to their account over the phone, and at no point should anyone be required to download a piece of software from a third-party tech support provider in order to solve an issue.

3. Keep operating systems and antivirus software up to date.

Users should always make sure they are running updated security/antivirus software on their computers that can detect problems as soon as they appear.

4. If you become suspicious of an ad or are victimized by a scam, REPORT IT!

One of the best ways companies can defend users from harmful scams and bad ads is through user feedback.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more cyber security tips:

Tips For Internet Security to Prepare you for New Cyber Attacks — Do you need more evidence to be diligent in using best practices for security on the Internet? According to a Web security study in 2013, Internet attacks have been impacting businesses, with the majority of them reporting significant effects in the form of increased help desk time, reduced employee productivity and disruption of business activities.

More Cybercrime Serves as Warning to Take Defensive Precautions — Cybercrime is only getting worse. From both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, here are three examples of countless crimes: Authorities including the Secret Service are investigating the hacking of retailer Target in 2013 – hackers stole credit and debit card data from 40 million customers.

Why Many Healthcare Workers Are Alarmingly Responsible for Medical ID Theft — Medical identity theft is skyrocketing. It’s the fast-growing trend in ID thievery.

BYOD, Mobile-Banking Warnings about Security Prove Prophetic — Not to be gauche, but in 2009 you saw the Internet security warning here first – mobile banking is so risky an IT security guru said don’t do it. The warning was prophetic.

“We worried for decades about WMDs – Weapons of Mass Destruction. Now it is time to worry about a new kind of WMDs – Weapons of Mass Disruption.” 

John Mariotti


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.


Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.