Cyberscammers use AI to manipulate Google search results

In the digital age, where searching online has become second nature, even the simplest inquiries can expose you to risks. 

Advanced artificial intelligence scams are lurking behind innocuous search engine queries, leveraging what’s known as “search engine optimization” to deceive users, according to expert advice from GuidePoint Security, highlighting how cybercriminals manipulate these systems.

These schemers purchase ads to position their bogus websites atop your search results, cunningly disguised as trustworthy sites.

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Take “PayPal” as an example; a superficial glance might show promising results, but a deeper investigation reveals deceit. Ads promising secure account access might redirect you to fraudulent sites cleverly designed to mimic PayPal’s login page, but their true intent is to pilfer your money and personal information.

This sophistication in scams calls for more than the usual precautions, like spotting spelling errors. The dishonesty has evolved with technology, such as a letter “U” intentionally distorted to resemble a horseshoe, which is subtle enough to trick the untrained eye and entice enough to make you click.

Another alarming case involved “Quicken Tech Support.” The top “sponsored” result failed to link to Quicken’s actual website despite promising round-the-clock support, showing just how deceptive these links can be.

Even when such fraudulent ads are flagged and removed, new ones often emerge to take their place, perpetuating this digital game of cat and mouse.

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1) Bookmark or save URLs of frequently visited sites, particularly social media and financial platforms, to avoid counterfeit pages.

2) Always type the website address directly into your browser’s address bar. Avoid clicking on links.

3) Opt to use official apps from reputable companies, providing an added layer of security and authenticity.

4) Routinely run antivirus protection on all of your devices to remove any ad-generating malware.

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While SEO search scams often occur when scammers buy ads in search results, another source of these types of scams can come from malware on your device or a compromised browser extension. So, if you see any of these trick ads in search or appearing on any website, immediately run reputable antivirus protection software to help identify and remove them.

For instance, typing “Lowes” might display what seems to be the official site at the top of the search results. However, this can lead to a nefarious site disguised under a veneer of legitimacy. By the time you realize the site is a sham, your sensitive information could already be compromised.

The best way to protect yourself from clicking malicious links that install malware that may get access to your private information is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. This can also alert you of any phishing emails or ransomware scams

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PROTECT YOURSELF FROM TECH SUPPORT SCAMS

Although Google is effective at removing a vast majority of these SEO scam ads, some still sneak through before they are caught. It’s up to you and me to watch out for ourselves by embracing the tools needed to be resilient against getting compromised. You need to stay vigilant and informed to navigate the online world safely, shielding yourself from the ever-evolving threats posed by cyberscammers.

Can you share a time when you almost fell for an online scam and what red flags helped you avoid it? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

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