Even the most experienced Internet users sometimes find it difficult to know which online companies are trustworthy, but many would view those with sponsored Google adverts to be legitimate. However, a BBC report has shown that this still isn’t always the case, as an unsuspecting buyer found out while attempting to purchase tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games.
In an effort to secure a ticket to the 1500m race, a Google search returned a sponsored link to a company named LiveOlympicTickets, where two tickets were purchased for £750, or $1160. An email requesting a faxed copy of the cardholder’s signature thankfully revealed the site as a scam to this customer, but others may not be so wise.
Perhaps even worse, is that Google keeps the money it earns from this, and from the many other companies using AdWords to promote their illegal businesses. While Google removes ads that are shown to break their policies, LiveOlympicTickets’ sponsored advert remained as the top link for a week after the UK Metropolitan Police requested it to be removed. It was the BBC’s intervention that finally saw this happen. Presumably all this time it was still earning money.
Other sponsored links uncovered in the investigation also promoted illegal products or services, such as fake passports and IDs. Selling tickets to the 2012 Olympic Games is a tightly controlled operation, and they should only be purchased from approved resellers.
Google has said they have strict policies when it comes to AdWords adverts, and a key word filter passes suspect ads over for further examination. However the company has been criticized for its, often slow, automated email system where users can alert them of those which slip through the net.
The search giant really doesn’t need another AdWords scandal, as in August last year they paid out $500 million after admitting to assisting Canadian pharmacies to sell illegal drugs in the USA via AdWords adverts.