There are many paths to wealth in life. Hard work. Luck. Crime. But you know what almost certainly won’t get you rich? Google and Facebook ‘get rich quick’ scam ads featuring Australian celebrities.
And recently, many Australian social media users are reporting having seen the advertisements.
I’ve been getting these horrid ads for weeks. They lead to fake news websites with spammy links. I report every one I see, yet I keep fucking getting them!!!! pic.twitter.com/ePCaA95nxh
— ???????????????????? ✨ (@lenpuppy) August 27, 2020
The ads follow a similar pattern: they use an image of a well-known Australian (unbeknownst to them), accompanied by text that promises information that will help you get rich.
— friendlycammies (@cameronwilson) August 25, 2020
The ads generally link to a fake news article, and will solicit payment either using regular currency or Bitcoin. Needless to say, people who have sent anything did not get rich quick.
Who’s behind these Facebook and Google scam ads?
It’s unclear. Elise Thomas is a freelance journalist and researcher with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute who has been tracking these ads on Facebook specifically for a while. She said it’s difficult to know who is behind them.
“The scammer behind this activity seems to be making use of hacked Facebook pages, accounts and websites, which makes it more challenging to identify who is responsible,”
Thomas points out that the scams follow a very similar pattern. Knowing that, she said, the tech giants could do more to stop them.
“They’re piggybacking off Facebook’s brand, and the fact that they continue to shell out money in order to do so is a sign that it’s paying off for them, literally,” she said.
Facebook and Google have been contacted for comment.
What can I do if I see a scam Google ad?
If you want to do something about these ads, you can report them through Google’s internal tools.
But, as Twitter user James Croft discovered, the process can be quite long and unintuitive. In a Twitter thread posted earlier this week, Croft outlined the 9 step process that he took to report the advertisements.
Let’s play a game. When encountering a scam ad served up by Google Ads, how many steps does it take to report it? Let’s count. pic.twitter.com/ufMEPk6Kbp
— James Croft (@jamescroft) August 26, 2020
Croft also compared how hard it is to report dodgy ads in Instagram. As it turns out, much easier.
So while you may want to trust our Prime Minister or Thor: be careful while surfing the web.