Google Unwillingly Redirects Users to a Tech Support Scam

Tech support scams have been a plague for many years now. Victims are either called on the phone or redirected to malicious websites posing as legitimate technical support platforms. Things are only getting worse over time, by the look of things. More specifically, Google Ads redirects users to tech support scam sites as of right now. These results relate to Google searches for “Target”, a famous US retailer.

Google Plays An Inadvertent Role in Tech Support Scams

A lot of people around the world rely on Google as a search engine. Regardless of other offerings being available, Google yields the most – and often best – results for any search one can think of. Unfortunately, not all of these results can be trusted, at least not where the sponsored ads are concerned. Most people often click the first link Google search shows them, which may not always yield the expected results.

When conducting a search for “Target” on Google, the first link most people will see redirects to a tech support scam. That is quite problematic, to say the least. This is yet another malvertising campaign which seemingly targets users in the United States and Canada as of right now. This rogue ad is displayed through the Google Ads service, which allows anyone to display the URL of their choosing regardless of where users are actually redirected to.

In this particular case, the ad shows users will visit “target.com,” but they are directed to “tech-supportcenter.us”. A very large discrepancy, to say the least. Moreover, it is unclear how this ad even got past Google’s ad quality control service. Redirections like these are – in most cases – automatically blocked by the technology giant. For some reason, this particular campaign got through. No one knows how long this ad has been visible in the search results, as it was only spotted on Friday.

Anyone clicking this advertisement would effectively be redirected to a tech support scam. This particular page looks quite similar to Microsoft’s real website, yet users are advised to call a specific phone number to receive a particular executable file. This file would then install malware on the target computer, which can lead to all kinds of trouble down the line. Luckily, it appears the malvertising campaign is no longer active, and the tech support scam platform is no longer accessible either.

This isn’t the first time Google’s Ad service is littered with malvertising campaigns, though. Despite the company’s best efforts to thwart these redirection schemes in the bud, some campaigns still get through. In February of 2017, a similar campaign injected tech support redirection ads for anyone who searches for “Amazon” on the search engine. This goes to show criminals are getting quite crafty when it comes to spoofing Google search results.

It is evident internet users will need to pay more attention to search results in the future. Clicking a sponsored ad is always asking or trouble regardless of it being legitimate or not. Moreover, when trying to access a major retailer’s website, just enter the name and add “.com” to the end in the address bar. More often than not, the result will be exactly what you are looking for. This method reduces the chance of falling victim to a tech support scam redirection, that much is certain.

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