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Google Search Restricts Third-Party Tech Support Ads

Fraudulent tech support ads and IT help desk scams are nothing new. But Google is finally taking steps to protect customers from the IT fraudsters.

In a blog post today, David Graff, Google’s director of global product policy wrote:

“We’ve seen a rise in misleading ad experiences stemming from third-party technical support providers and have decided to begin restricting ads in this category globally.

For many years, we’ve consulted and worked with law enforcement and government agencies to address abuse in this area. As the fraudulent activity takes place off our platform, it’s increasingly difficult to separate the bad actors from the legitimate providers. That’s why in the coming months, we will roll out a verification program to ensure that only legitimate providers of third-party tech support can use our platform to reach consumers.”

It sounds like a promising move. But Google didn’t indicate if legitimate IT service providers can currently post ads. Nor did the search giant indicate when the “verification program” will specifically arrive.

The Wall Street Journal offered these additional insights:

“[Google] will start implementing the restriction on these adds immediately, but they will take weeks to go fully into effect in all languages and parts of the world, people familiar with the new policy said. They added that the verification process for allowing individual vendors back onto the platform is still being worked out.”

Tech Support Scams: The Growing Numbers, Problems

How bad is the tech support scam problem? The numbers are staggering. According to The Wall Street Journal:

  • A 2018 study found 72% of sponsored ads on major search engines related to technical support queries led to scam websites.
  • Microsoft, which receives around 12,000 complaints about tech support scams every month, reported a 24 percent increase in such complaints through 2017.
  • The Federal Trade Commission registered 45,000 complaints about online tech support fraud in 2016, which the agency estimates is only a fraction of the true total.

Cleaning Up Online Networks

Google, Facebook, Twitter and other online services have been working overtime to block or take down various types of ads and social campaigns. Among the big concerns: Nation states that secretly launch social and search campaigns to influence elections and more.

Google has quietly worked to cleanse its online ad systems from a range of fraudulent efforts. In the past year, for instance, the company took down more than 3.2 billion ads that violated Google’s advertising policies; that’s more than 100 bad ads per second, Graff’s blog indicated.

Alleged Tech Support Scams: The Scorecard

Meanwhile, prosecutors also have been cracking down on alleged IT support fraud. Among the cases ChannelE2E has tracked:

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15 Comments

Comments

    George D.:

    Its about time Google took some action on these companies! This has been a plague to the industry and legitimate tech support companies. Customers have no idea who to trust anymore when it comes to fixing their computer.

    Chad M:

    I’m hoping Google quickly gets that whitelist they mentioned started. Some companies that do actual tech support and repair could lose business because of this policy.

    Joe Panettieri:

    Hey George, Chad: Thanks for your comments. We’ll check in with Google to see how this effort is moving along. Stay tuned.
    -jp

    Matt Karls:

    There is no white listing in place, computer repair ads ended nationwide at 2:48pm on Wednesday 11/21/18. It has been a major impact to our Computer Repair Company (10 metros, several shops per metro), 92% loss in new clients and we started laying off people today. Our Google Account Manager only was only told today it was not a glitch and there would be no white listing for computer repair companies, as of now it’s a total ban like bail bonds or pay day loans.

    Joe Panettieri:

    Hi Matt: I’ve reached out to Google for comment. ChannelE2E will post additional coverage if/when we hear back from the company. Please keep me posted on what you hear. joe@AfterNines.com.
    -jp

    Austin:

    Oh dear Lord this is terrible! I’m a legitimate local computer repair business and my phone has gone silent. I’m going to have to start laying people off if Google doesn’t implement a verification system and soon! I don’t want to lay people off if Google is actually planning on creating a verification system for us legitimate businesses but if they have no plans to do so I’m going to lay everyone off and close my business. Thanks, Google.

    Bob Kahles:

    Actual businesses COULD lose business?! It’s been over 4 months and no hint of a verification system being put in place! At least 75-80% of all my new clients were generated from Google adwords.

    I am going to die of stress and a heart attack if something doesn’t happen soon! I am looking at other ways to advertise but Google should be liable for all the business I have lost due to them blocking all tech support keywords and adverttising BEFORE implementing a verification system! I HAVE A FAMILY TO FEED AND GOOGLE DOESN’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS!

    I hope there is at least a class action lawsuit for them doing this crap! I can understand trying to take out the bad guys, but they knowingly made billions for years off those fake scam remote support bastards and then one day, they stop ALL form of advertsing on their platform, regardless of whether your business has a 4.9 of 5 star Google Business review rating with almost 80 reviews in the past year.

    Google could have done this in a manner where none of us real tech support/computer repair businesses had to be negatively affected, especially not for over 4 months without resolution! I AM PISSED!!!!!

    Bob Kahles:

    @
    Joe Panettieri You can use my post for your news and let people know how much Google doesn’t care about the legitimate businesses that they took money from and now are leaving to die.

    If Google won’t allow me to advertise my PC repair business out of Cincinnati, maybe they’ll give me back the 14 grand I spent on Adwords last year!

    I wish I was filthy rich because I would gladly lawyer up and sue their greedy asses in the name of all reputable tech support/computer repair businesses losing tons of money from not being able to advertise on the most effective platform this day and age.

    Bob Kahles:

    @Austin

    Their last verification system took almost a year to implement, if that’s a clue as to how long it will be before we can advertise again, after submitting to their verification and waiting on approval.

    kingsley adams:

    Just like to add to this thread, several months later, my adverts where banned by google yesterday even though they had previously been approved over 2 years ago. The google adwords representative I spent an hour on the phone with told me all tech support adverts where now banned and there was no way I can post adverts of any kind. I am a PC/Laptop repair shop on the high street in the UK (in business now for 9 years), this is killing my business. I have been spending over 8k $ a year which for my small company is a big outlay and they drop me like a stone. I asked about the verification Process but was told there was none available, even though google touted this as a way for legitimate business to still be able to advertise when this was announced way back in sept 2018. Indecently in the UK I have noticed all the really big bluechip tech companies are still using google adwords for tech support advertising and none of them have been penalised the same way and us small business have been. I cite for example PCworld in the UK who are a 3rd party PC/Laptop repair business, they are still advertising as I write this. This is clearly against googles adwords policy but nothing s being done about it, it seems that if your adword budget is large enough the rules clearly do not apply to your business.

    David:

    I run a successful home PC repair service and I’ve been using Adwords for a couple of years now on and off but started getting emails just a few days ago that some of my ads were being disapproved due to googles ‘technical support’ policy. Funny thing is they havent blocked all my ads yet I can cite numerous examples where an approved ad Ive still got running is no different to a recently disapproved ad? They really need to start a verification process to allow legitimate tech support businesses to advertise rather than blanketing everyone with a ban. Pure madness.

    Joe Panettieri:

    Hi Folks: Thank you for the continued comments, though I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with the Adword challenges. I’m reaching out to Google again today to see if they have a comment about the situation. I’ll report back with a comment here and a new story (potentially) if Google shares any details for our readers.
    -jp

    chris:

    I’m having this problem too. They took out all my ads since yesterday. i’m trying to run a legit repair shop for small business and now i have this problem. i can’t find any hint of what is wrong. My adds were running fine for few months and now they are disable.

    Julian:

    This issue has just hit us only this week just as we have decided to open a high road shop. To say that this is a blow is an understatement. Google have happily taken our money for years running the same ads and building up our excellent feedback & reputation but now have totally pulled the rug from under us at our most crucial time.
    No doubt that any blue chip or major corp will happily benefit from Google’s latest move while small independents struggle.

    David:

    Don’t waste your time. I did and got no-where. I have an appointment with a Yellow Pages ad specialist tomorrow with regard moving my advertising dollars over to them. Good riddance google.

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