Even though Google has branched out into many directions, it began as a search engine that helped us find whatever we needed on the internet. Just type it into the box, and a list with more options than you could need would appear on your screen.
Paid advertisements tend to show up at the top, which is annoying but not really a big deal. Because even then, at least you could trust those links to be if not helpful, at least harmless.
But of course, it turns out the search results cannot always be trusted. Click on the wrong one, and you could be sent down a path that will lead to nothing but problems.
Even if it's at the top, it may not be real
While not an entirely new scam, Google has had some issues with presenting fake ads at the top of its searches. They are paid for and look real, but they are anything but.
The most recent version of the scam involves what appears to be an ad for Amazon. If you looked for the site through Google, it topped the list of options for you to click on.
Anyone who clicked on the link was sent to a page that attempted to trick them into calling a number out of fear that their computer was infected with malware. The OS you were using would determine what the pop-up box would look like, but the goal was to get your account information and other details in a phishing expedition.
Trying to close the box would lead to it expanding to full-screen, thereby making it appear as though your computer actually has been infected.
How did it happen...again?
Unfortunately, this is not the first time scammers were able to take advantage of Google to get their link featured. Google says their policy is to prohibit the advertising of illegal activities and take immediate action when something slips through, their systems have proven to not be foolproof.
In a previous instance, a paid ad appeared via a proxy script that made the fake domain look like it goes to a real Amazon page. Looking like a legitimate link helped it slip past Google's security efforts.
It makes sense that scammers would take advantage of people's desire to use Amazon, too. Millions of people visit the site every day, and if the link at the top of Google looked real, there would be no reason to think it wasn't.
Google was made aware of the issue and took the link down, but there is no way to know how many people clicked on it and, what's more, the number of victims there are. Given how many people search for Amazon every day, it stands to reason the link netted a good number of clicks.
The good news is there is no evidence that the bad link infected anyone with malware, so there is nothing to fear there. If you called the number and provided information to the scammer, you will need to address the accounts that may have been compromised.
There are some things to keep in mind in order to ensure you don't have this kind of problem in the future.
For starters, remember you do not need to go through Google to get to Amazon. Just go to Amazon.com and you will be fine. You also should ignore any pop-ups or ads that tell you to call for support, as those are not real.
Have a question about malware? Kim has your answer! Click here to send Kim a question, she may use it and answer it on her radio show. The Kim Komando Show is broadcast on over 450 stations. Click here to find the show time in your area.
Because scammers never stop
Keeping your personal information out of the hands of criminals is hard enough these days. We need to be able to trust companies that we do business with to have proper security. That's not always the case. Now, a Walmart partner is responsible for exposing personal data of over a million consumers. Click here to see if you should be concerned.