These last few days Google served me several identical ads on a fake investment scheme (on YouTube). The sites these ads point to mimic the looks of a prominent Czech news service novinky.cz and they are written in the form of a news article about an alleged law that our president Petr Pavel signed (the fake article contains even his picture). And the investment scheme is about investing in a prominent Czech company, in which the state owns the majority of shares. Very good job, with very few grammatical errors. The site does not pass even a very cursory check – all links point to the “registration” site for the fake investment, even links that on a normal news website should lead to other articles, comments, etc. Also, a short Google search shows that the company whose name is used for this fake investment scheme filed a lawsuit over a year ago.
Police are investigating the matter, but so far they could not find who profits from these ads – several people fell for them so there is an ongoing investigation for fraud in addition to impersonating a company and abusing their logo. So far they were not able to establish who is behind the scam and stop it.
And I have to ask – how come? How can it happen, that Google continues to show people ads for illegal activity for over a year by now? And how is it possible that they cannot be traced? One would expect that when someone wants to buy an ad from Google they would have to prove that they are a legitimate company/person with a legitimate need. And that said ad would be vetted before publishing. But apparently, it is possible to buy ad space from Google without any verifications and checks and without any human being involved at any point. I do wonder how the payments are done, since in the EU anonymous bank accounts are illegal. This scammer must operate within the EU because the ad is targeted at a Czech-speaking audience only.
We are not talking about a random person using a free service to publish shit on some social networks, I do understand that those cannot be all vetted prior to publishing. Here we are talking about someone purchasing an illegal service from Google and Google subsequently providing said illegal service unless and until somebody goes through the trouble to report it.
Which I did, btw. Three times over three days. All three times I got confirmation that the ad will be taken down. On the fourth day, I got an ad for a different fraudulent scheme and I reported that too. It too was taken down.
But this is evidently a broken system since people get defrauded and the perpetrators were not caught (yet).