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Watch For Scams Newsletter. Imposter Ads
January 11, 2023

Imposter Ads

Watch For Scams is dedicated to helping you avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

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Imposter Ads

The FBI has issued a public notice which includes advice to block adverts.

It’s no secret that rogue ads have been a particular plague on the Internet for as far back as we can remember. From irritating pop ups and spinning “You’ve won a prize” banners to adverts pushing malicious redirects and malvertising, you never quite know what’s waiting in your browser when the page you request loads up.

The FBI warning concerns fake ads impersonating the real thing and diverting potential victims off to parts unknown.

Cyber criminals are using search engine advertisement services to impersonate brands and direct users to malicious sites that host ransomware and steal login credentials and other financial information.

The ads are regular search engine advertisements that typically sit at the top of your Google or Bing searches. The ads the FBI is warning about paid for by criminals, and mimic real brands by using similar domain names, and linking to legitimate-looking web pages that are "identical to the impersonated business’s official webpage.

The FBI advice for people generally:

1. Before clicking on an advertisement, check the URL to make sure the site is authentic. A malicious domain name may be similar to the intended URL but with typos or a misplaced letter.

2. Rather than search for a business or financial institution, type the business’s URL into an Internet browser’s address bar to access the official website directly.

3. 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.

Whatever your approach and opinion of paid advertising online, the problem of bad ads cluttering up sponsored search results will be around for a long time to come.

If you believe you have been a victim of this type of scam you should promptly report it to the IC3's website at The IC3's complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration.

Remember - always watch for scams!


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