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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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9 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.

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