The latest internet scam does not involve Nigerian princes or secret lotto winnings, but it’s tricky enough to fool users who are just trying to find some cute kitten videos.
According to The Inquirer, popular antivirus software firm Malwarebytes says that the latest trick that online criminals are using involves Google search results. It’s called “malvertising,” and it can convince even the most adept computer veterans to funnel money into the scammers’ pockets.
Malvertising is a portmanteau of “malware” and “advertising.” In basic terms, it’s a strategy used by crooks on the internet to install a virus on your computer that can extract confidential information from your hard drive and, in a worst-case scenario, allow a hacker to steal your identity.
In this latest scam, Google users who search for the popular video website YouTube will see the malvertising at the very top of the search results in the ad section.
Having the top link for a commonly-searched keyword on Google is one of the best ways to drive traffic to a website. The internet has made people impatient, and 75% of users never even get past the first page of search results.
These scammers bid for the rights to be at the top of search results for YouTube, which is one of the most popular keyword searches on the entire internet. By displaying the actual link to YouTube, users think they are being led to the website.
“Cybercrooks made this one look very real, with the supposed URL destination actually being the real YouTube website, and providing a preview to a YouTube channel when hovering over the link with your mouse —- making this one good enough to trick even some security-savvy users,” explained Jerome Segura, researcher at Malwarebytes.
Instead of going to YouTube, the user sees the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death,” informing them that their computer is infected and displaying a “toll-free phone number” for them to call.
According to InfoSecurity, Malwarebytes also released a statement on how the scam works once the phone call is placed.
“As with most similar scam pages, users are instructed to call a toll-free ‘helpline’ to resolve their computer issues. This is no help line at all, however. Con artists are waiting for victims to phone in so that they can further scare them into purchasing expensive – and unnecessary – support packages,” Malwarebytes said.
They also note that identity theft is a common result of malvertising, as scammers will stop at nothing to take advantage of your hard drive once they gain access to it.
Malwarebytes reported the campaign to Google and the bogus ads were pulled immediately. As is the case with most internet crime, the perps have not been identified.
These scams pop up on a daily basis, so be sure to stay vigilant when you’re doing online searches. Even the most adorable puppy video in the world isn’t worth losing your bank account over.