How can you describe online advertising fraud other than a serious problem? A huge pain in the behind? Whatever you say, it’s probably not enough. According to Statista, the estimated cost of digital advertising fraud worldwide for 2017 was 17.4 billion, a cool two billion increase compared to 2016. As the biggest advertising company in the world, Google is far from spared regarding this issue. What’s more, there is a fair share of Google fraud going on. There was an instance where the search engine company found out that thousands (possibly millions) of video and display ad spots were available on multiple ad exchanges even though no ads were actually being sold at that time.
Image credit: Business Insider
Then there was the situation with mobile ad fraud, where users were forced to click on ads on more than 40 apps. And these are just the big cases you hear about. With such a large and, unfortunately, profitable operation, it’s safe to assume frauds on a small(er) scale happen every day where the small businesses routinely get the short straw. If you’re one of the little guys and want to report Google fraud, here’s what you need to know.
Reporting Google Fraud
Sadly, there isn’t a shortage of reasons why you would need to reach out to Google and explain your issue. However, that’s not quite straightforward as it seems. When attempting to contact Google (or any other big online company, for that matter), you need to jump through some hoops to get what you want. This is because major online services don’t offer conventional customer support (not for free services, anyway). Instead, they rely on the use of automated reports. That’s also an issue, as going back and forth through generic emails will likely get you nowhere, so it’s vital to know exactly where or whom to turn to, especially if the matter at hand is time-sensitive. Let’s see how you can report Google fraud.
If you are starting from the beginning - the Contact page - you’ll need to pick AdWords as an option (unless you’re a victim of a different Google platform) and navigate through a few pages and menus until you find what you’re looking for. That would be this page:
Pretty unspectacular, right? However, this is the best way to report Google fraud as it directly reports a safety or abuse issue affecting a Google product. You’ll find this particular page under the Ad Policy and Review (“Report an ad that violates policy” option) in the Privacy, security and online safety drop-down menu upon choosing AdWords from the Contact page. Contrary to popular belief, their support center does not provide direct access to filling a fraud report (we’ll get to it in a few moments).
As stated on the page, you need to provide the click string of the ad on which you are giving feedback and fill out a form. The entire process takes a few minutes, depending on the form you’re filling. Ads that violate trademark and/or counterfeit goods policies require separate forms with additional steps to further detail the actions (it’s a very serious matter, after all). There are a number of options that cover a wide range of violations, including the option to specify a particular problem if you are unsure which category it fits the most (or doesn’t). Click on the Submit button and that’s it. You’ve done your part, now it’s up to Google to do the dirty work.
As always, you can perform a quick search in the top search bar and get a scoop on the answers provided by the active community. For instance, you might stumble upon the AdWords questions, complaints, and feedback page which can, among other things, lead you to an ad feedback form or a complaint form which are, surprisingly, the same thing - the one we showed you a couple of images above. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions or search the community help forum. Finally, there’s the AdWords telephone number: 1-866-2GOOGLE (1-866-246-6453) available only for the United States where you’ll get in touch with an AdWords specialist.
Tips and Guides
The great thing about all the links and forms we mentioned above is that the majority of options simply provide additional tips or direct you to another section for more information at a Google Help site for addressing the matter in detail. In some cases, the report template explains how to find the specific service, category and subcategory report feature. For budding affiliates and advertisers, one of the more helpful items in terms of Google fraud is this article on how to avoid and report specific Google scams. It’s a collection of ongoing scams involving those that most users aren’t even aware of. For example, the AdWords Impersonation Scam starts from an unsolicited phone call or email from someone “representing” Google AdWords. They inform the user there’s been a change in billing for payments and provide an email which holds information how to change both the bank and account number for future payments towards your AdWords account. The scam is quite believable, even containing a Google AdWords logo.
As for the Product Support Center, the AdWords Help Center page focuses largely on setting up and running your campaigns. However, it does provide pointers on account security and safety, ranging from best practices on how to keep your account secure, to reporting unauthorized charges. In addition, there are some general tips for staying safer and more secure on the web, as well as an overview of some of the security tools that Google offers, courtesy of Google Safety Center.
Despite Google's somewhat limited options for reporting problems, the company does its best to cater to its vast user base by being informative and attentive. There are more than enough privacy, security and online safety tips and advice for everyone included, no matter how small the issue is. Alas, almost every ad network on the world wide web has to deal with fraudulent activities designed with one aim in mind: to deplete the budgets of unsuspecting users. Google is no exception, and the ad fraud won’t go away anytime soon. At least, you know how to stop it from spreading. One small victory at a time.