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Avoid these scam ads popping up on YouTube
© Sergei Elagin |
Security & privacy

Watch out for this scam ad popping up in YouTube

If you have spent any time on YouTube, you have seen a few ads. For the most part, advertising is through skippable in-stream ads. That’s when you see those short videos before or after the video you want to watch. Don’t like what you see? Here are eight YouTube pro tricks for better searches and more privacy.

YouTube has several other advertising formats, and they can look very different when viewed on a mobile phone. For example, some can appear as an in-stream pop-up, while others are bumper ads — short, non-skippable video ads.

But there is one type of advertisement that can be dangerous. Read on for what to look out for and how to avoid falling victim to possible scams.

Here’s the backstory

Kim recently browsed YouTube on her mobile device, and a strange message popped up. An alert said that her iPhone’s storage was full and the device won’t work underneath the playing video. There was also a helpful “clean now” option.

Pop-up in YouTube

But the problem with the alert, whether Kim’s phone is out of storage space or not, is deceptive advertising. There is an Install button just below the ad if you look closely. Fortunately, Kim is savvy spotting online scams and didn’t fall for it. But others might not be so lucky.

There is no telling where the link will take you, and there is no guarantee that the app will even clean your device. Most often, apps like that can hide dangerous malware and, once installed, can send your personal information to cybercriminals.

So, why doesn’t YouTube do anything about it? Well, this type of advertising is known as “Watch feed ads.” The advertising you see is from outside the mobile video player. YouTube claims to have no control over it.

“Watch feed ads are ads that appear in the feed of recommended videos below the player on mobile and next to the player on computers. These types of ads cannot be controlled from within YouTube Studio,” it explains on an advertising support page.

That’s a rather crafty way of saying that YouTube can’t be held responsible for the content of these ads. We guess that this type of advertising goes through Google Ads, which is notorious for shady promotions.

What you can do about it

Thankfully, you can do a few things to stay safe while browsing videos on YouTube. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t click on advertisements shown through YouTube. There is no way of authenticating the advertised product or app.
  • There is no reason for your mobile device to show alerts inside another app. Any system-related alerts are displayed in a separate pop-up and will often be visible on your home screen only.
  • Treat any message that claims something is wrong with your device as suspicious. Unfortunately, many scams work like this by creating a sense of urgency and hoping that you will act without an investigation.

Keep reading

Tech help scam: Don’t click pop-ups warning your system is at risk

How to watch YouTube picture-in-picture on your iPhone – there’s also a catch

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