FBI warning: Cyber criminals impersonating brands using search engine advertisement services to defraud users

Cybercriminals are Targeting People with Malvertising and Imitation Ads

In recent months, there has been a surge in cybercriminal activity using a variety of techniques, including malvertising and imitation ads, to trick people into revealing personal and financial information or downloading malware.

FBI Warns of Imitation Ads in Paid Search Results

The FBI has warned of an increase in imitation ads that are appearing in paid search results. These ads are designed to look like ads from legitimate companies, but they actually lead to fake websites that are designed to steal personal information or install malware. Some of the ads lead to fake security warnings designed to get people to call and pay for unnecessary tech support services.

Malvertising Campaign Targets Seniors via Fake Weebly Sites

One recent example of how cybercriminals are targeting seniors is a malvertising campaign that is using fake Weebly sites to host decoy content that is designed to fool search engines and crawlers. When victims click on a link to one of these sites, they are redirected to a fake computer alert that warns them that their computer is infected with malware. The fake alert then prompts victims to call a tech support number, where they are scammed into paying for unnecessary repairs or services.

How to Protect Yourself

There are a number of things that people can do to protect themselves from these scams, including:

  • Be suspicious of unexpected pop-ups or alerts. If you see a pop-up or alert that warns you that your computer is infected with malware, do not click on any links or call any phone numbers. Instead, close the pop-up or alert and/or restart your computer.
  • Be careful about what you click on. Do not click on links in emails or text messages from unknown senders. Even if the sender appears to be a legitimate company, it is always best to hover your mouse over the link to see the real URL before you click on it.
  • Don’t respond to an invoice for something you never ordered. Scammers are using fake invoices to get you to call them to supposedly cancel an invoice or charge. When in doubt, contact your financial institution about unrecognized invoices or charges.
  • Go to the address directly when possible. Rather than search for a business or financial institution, type the business’s website address into an internet browser’s address bar to access the official website directly. For example, rather than searching for “Amazon”, type “amazon.com” into the address bar of your browser.
  • Double-check the website address. After clicking a link in a search result or typing in a website address, double-check the website address in the address bar for spelling errors to make sure that you’re on the website that you intended to be on. A malicious domain name may be similar to the intended URL but with typos or a misplaced letter.
  • Use an ad blocking extension when performing internet searches. Most internet browsers allow a user to add extensions, including extensions that block advertisements. These ad blockers can be turned on and off within a browser to permit advertisements on certain websites while blocking advertisements on others. But be careful to pick a reputable ad blocker with millions of favorable reviews. A free ad blocker we like is AdblockPlus. You do not need to pay for a good, reputable ad blocker.

By following these tips, you can help to protect yourself from the growing number of cyber scams that are targeting people of all ages.