Australia’s National Anti-Scam Centre (NASC) has raised concerns about an alarming surge in online scams, costing Australians nearly $74 million in the past year. The scams exploit the prevalence of sponsored ads dominating search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Despite appearing as legitimate content, these ads are actually deceptive paid placements, primarily benefiting fraudsters. Scamwatch, a part of NASC, discovered that users searching for specific brands or stores online are falling victim to sponsored pages and advertisements, which often lead to compromised data and payment details due to online shopping activities.
Sponsored ads typically appear prominently on search engine results, giving users the impression of being credible businesses. However, this trend is linked to a larger cybercrime phenomenon known as malvertising, which has tainted many search engines with fraudulent webpages. Scamwatch emphasizes the importance of awareness and prevention in the face of this growing threat.
It advises users to watch out for telltale signs such as the “Sponsored” label on websites in search results, avoiding suspicious links or pop-ups, and being cautious of websites with URLs resembling well-known brands but containing additional characters. Furthermore, users are warned of the lack of proper grammar and details on scam websites, as well as the use of deepfake technology and fake product reviews to deceive visitors.
To safeguard against falling prey to these scams, Scamwatch recommends refraining from clicking on links or websites under sponsored content and being wary of pop-ups claiming system updates or free gifts. By staying vigilant and informed, individuals can protect themselves from the financial and data-related risks associated with these fraudulent online sponsored ad schemes.