The largest internet companies have often been criticized for not doing enough to protect consumers against malicious online advertising. In May, a company called TrustInAds.org was launched by Google, Facebook, AOL and Twitter to deal with the issue. The internet leaders are trying a new strategy to combat Internet ad scams, malvertising and counterfeit ads, and aim to identify scam trends and protect consumers from malicious online ads.
When it comes to making big decisions, most people turn to the Internet as a primary source of information. We’ve learned to use recommendations from companies we trust, information provided by reputable news sources, and referrals from our close friends and family. Social media channels are an extremely important channel for both consumers and advertisers, especially those channels focusing on building connections with family and friends. The atmosphere on the channel itself is one of trust, and at the core of our decision-making is trust.
While the Internet is an information powerhouse, it’s also a sector replete with advertising fraud, and some scammers are so adept at the process, they can fool even the most skeptical, cautious buyer. According to digital analytics provider comScore, 36 percent of online traffic is suspicious or non-human. It is easy for fraudulent advertisers to create an online company, set up a merchant account and being operations. Because the advertisements so closely resemble policy-compliant ads they don’t raise any red flags and can be missed by the advertising channels.
Companies like Fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers League, were created to educate and protect consumers from being victimized by fraud. The newly formed TrustInAds is the second company formed by the internet alliance. The first was called The Ads Integrity Alliance and was shut down a year ago due to lack of consumer outreach.
In recent years, the most common targets for scam advertisers include social media channels, credit reporting sites, job boards and most recently tech-support. Job boards are especially dangerous because of the amount of private information consumers share when applying for a position, from name and address, to a detailed professional history, to their social security number. We may feel a sense of trust because of the channel we are using, especially if they are well known, but that doesn’t always transition to the advertisers.
Tech-support fraud, which tricks users into installing malware, is the most common and dangerous of online activity and one the alliance has focused on first. The alliance released its first Trend Alert Report, which highlights tech-support advertising scams, one of the newest scam categories popping up on the Internet. The report explains how tech-support scammers trick users into installing malware. Consumers can find common sense tips about how to avoid malicious ads and how to report suspicious ads to the companies and the government. Other industry reports will follow.