Paid ad (PPC) scams: What are you doing to protect your brand?

Here’s how brands can combat the growing threat of paid ad scams, in a digital world rife with endless opportunities and channels for cybercriminals.

There’s a new threat to brands that’s increasingly gaining popularity - paid ad (PPC) scams

What are paid ad scams?

Paid ads, or PPC ad scams, are used by cybercriminals to perpetrate fraudulent activity, and typically involve them gaining access to users’ personal information. This can happen via counterfeit links and phishing and may include malware distribution, traffic theft and more. 

In these types of scams, cybercriminals may use Google or Bing paid ads, to promote counterfeit stores selling a brand’s products. But these paid ad scams aren’t a problem that exists strictly on search engines - they are also commonly found on social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram. 

Unsuspecting customers view these ads and click on them. They are then directed to the fake store, where they purchase the counterfeit products. Beyond ending up with an inauthentic item, customers who enter their credit card or other personal information on these sites can end up as victims of phishing and impersonation scams.

There are a few types of paid ad scams, including phishing, brand impersonation, and counterfeiting, which all fall under the umbrella of sales distribution scams:

  • Paid ad impersonation happens when the false promotion presents itself as a genuine brand ad, and is often nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. 
  • Supply chain scams see cybercriminals place their focus more on businesses, rather than consumers. In these scams, fraudsters run ads targeting businesses at the middle or end of the supply chain, such as a store selling fake goods.
  • Phishing attacks involve cybercriminals reaching out through either employees or customers. In both these cases the goal is the same: to gather data and entry points to internal networks, which can lead to revenue loss and damage to a company’s reputation.
  • Brand impersonation has a singular goal: impersonating a brand which is trusted by its consumers in order to trick victims into responding. Once they have, cybercriminals will get them to reveal personal information, credentials, or other sensitive data.

In order to combat this array of paid ad scams, businesses need both robust anti phishing solutions and PPC ad protection in order to properly protect their brands.

What else do you need to know about PPC ad protection?

Brands and paid ads: Risks and challenges 

Most brands, especially big brands, have numerous vendors selling their products, making it nearly impossible to keep track of every single sales point for their wares. As paid ad scams can target anyone, from consumers to middlemen to vendors, at any stage of the product and distribution journey, brands often aren’t aware of these fraudulent ads until it’s too late.

Adding to these challenges is that Google doesn’t allow the type of mass scanning of ads that could potentially alert a brand to a fraudulent promotion. With so many different types of paid ads, including Google, Google Shopping, Bing, Facebook and other social media sites, brands have a staggering number of arenas where fraudulent ads can occur - and cybercriminals are highly aware of this reality. That’s not to mention that each of these potential platforms for hosting fraudulent paid ads has its own range of common scams, from phishing and fake sites to traffic theft and more. 

Brands do catch a break when it comes to Facebook, as the social media giant allows businesses to use its proprietary meta tools to search ads. It’s extremely difficult to organically catch a fake paid ad, so detecting fraudulent Facebook ads requires brands to leverage APIs for automatic scanning. When paid ad scams are discovered on Facebook, brands do have the power to use the platform’s tools for takedowns.

But even with some support from Facebook, the risks and challenges posed by paid ads remain a major source of concern for brands. In order to effectively safeguard their brands’ reputations and bottom lines, businesses must invest in vigorous ad monitoring and anti phishing solutions.

Brand impersonation pages on social media are another issue causing a headache for businesses around the world. Fake pages purporting to be a brand run campaigns and gain followers, to the point that customers may confuse them with the genuine brand. If a scam page has a large following and established social media presence, that opens the door to people being scammed, as they’re fooled into believing that the page truly belongs to the brand.

Social media ad protection has therefore emerged as one of the rising demands in the brand protection market, especially for international brands. Global brands often face enormous challenges when it comes to social media ads, as wannabe influencers frequently promote fake products to get followers, which means more credibility for their pages.

Protect your brand from ad scams

Thanks to social media and the massive shift to e-commerce triggered by the pandemic, paid ad scams are increasingly common. Social media provides an appealing channel for scammers to create ad campaigns targeting a specific audience, while pretending to represent small businesses. 

These scams are more and more common because social media provides advertisers with the ability to target the right audience. This makes fraud easier than ever before. From the cybercriminals’ perspective, there is very little risk and minimal effort needed. There is not much money that needs to be spent on their end and a lot to gain.

Social media platforms exercise very little to no regulation regarding scams or impersonation, leaving the brunt of mitigating the risk of fraudulent paid aids up to the brands themselves. 

The good news is that there is an anti-phishing and PPC ad protection that can help you vigorously protect your brand against these cybercriminals. 

BrandShield is a brand-oriented digital risk protection platform that provides your business with a holistic, big-picture view of the threats facing your brand online, including paid ad scams. We run repeated searches to scan all online ads involving your brand, review the websites to which they lead users, and gather and analyze extensive data to break down the threats to your business.

Our solution is designed to safeguard your enterprise from a plethora of online threats, and includes an enforcement team of industry experts with decades of real-world experience in phishing takedown services. To learn more about how BrandShield’s technology can help protect your brand and help your company combat the threat of paid ad fraud:

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