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Scams Masquerading as Genuine Advertisements?

Like many sites this is partly supported by companies placing advertisements in the margins of the Home and other pages.

Some are eerily local to you as user: one waffles about "[My town's name] Opticians... " apparently threatened by some technical development in their trade. I saw one regularly on EP, telling me things like "Sarah lives four miles from you" - it was a lie of course, but it opened a dating-site that showed it knew roughly I live, within perhaps 50 miles anyway. The advertising-agencies use your approximate location bought or gleaned from the web-site.

One though, advertised a "Simple trick to see if you've ever had PPI" (Payment Protection Insurance, usually for mortgages.) I know I do not, and when I did I was not a victim of a miss-selling racket the banks ran for a while, but I selected it out of curiosity. My security software 'Bulldog' promptly leapt up, snarled at it as dangerous, and blocked it.

Possibly, Bulldog is very wary of anything mentioning money on non-https web-sites even where genuine. Sometimes it blocks one forum I use perhaps due to it carrying private for-sale and trade-services ads., and sellers do occasionally do alert each other to responders clearly but clumsily attempting to use the private sales for fraud or money-laundering. So perhaps Bulldog is spotting these criminal attempts.

Or are there hidden dangers in some of these apparently safe advertisements and notices? 

Posted - October 14, 2016


  • I used to click on some of them to support this site but got tired of having to remove malrware. I turned my Adblock back on for this site and haven't had any trouble since. I don't care what they say,  most of these ads aren't safe. 
      October 14, 2016 8:15 AM MDT

  • 46117
    Who cares?  No one reads them anyway.   It is common knowledge that advertisers pick up information from the net about our personal choices, etc.  It is a necessary evil and your job is to use your brain and not listen with any more seriousness than you do when you turn on your boob tube and sit on the sofa and absorb the lies from your TV.

    They are ADS.   Now.  What do you do when you read an ad?  You think.  You think, now why is this company saying this?  Oh yes.  They want to make money.  Now, what is their proof that their product is valid?   If that is not suspect, then you may consider their offer. 

      October 14, 2016 8:18 AM MDT

  • 3637
    I click on very few of them, Karen, and when they try to use my town name I am even more reluctant, for twp reasons. Firstly, I do not want to help guide the advertising agency to assess the reliability of its own data-harvesting. Secondly, I see it as a catch even if the ad might be safe.

    You are right, Sharonna, but I'm not worried about genuine ads from real companies; I do take them a generous pinch of salt; I know advertisers raid or buy personal information from the Internet. In fact data-harvesting is the real business of sites like Facebook, with its added bonus of users revealing freely their real names, locations, family details, etc.

    It's the risk of fake or high-jacked ads I questioned.

    Oh, BTW...  "boob tube".  LOL! I don't know if that was an intentional, rather wicked, pun - I like it anyway. I don't know because I have no idea what it was called in the US, but in the UK "boob tube" is the risqué nick-name for a certain women's garment popular some while back now. It was a short crop-top; a close-fitting cylinder of elasticated fabric whose hem was well above the wearer's navel, and climbing towards the low neck-line!

    And I don't have a TV so whilst I may miss programmes I might choose to watch in entirety, at least I'm not bombarded with facile commercials for things I neither need nor want, interrupting them. :-)   
      October 14, 2016 8:48 AM MDT

  • Boob is a name for a mindless person here, kind of like a dolt or idiot, hence the name boob tube for the TV. 
      October 14, 2016 8:54 AM MDT

  • 3637
    I'd guessed something like that meaning - I think an old UK English slang for the same was "booby", now used in "booby prize", but not used as far as I've ever heard or read to describe the person.

    Distinct from "boob" though!

    Could be worse. EP and AM have revealed to me a significant trans-Atlantic difference in the meanings of the slang word "fanny"..... 'Nuff said!
      October 14, 2016 9:03 AM MDT

  • 2500
    So, run an ad blocker. That's what I do and I don't have to put up with that annoyance.
      October 14, 2016 9:24 AM MDT

  • 3637
    I do have a pop-up blocker on, but I've managed to block myself from much of my own computer's admin!

    I just don't normally click on the ads - that's the simplest but safe way to avoid anything untoward in them. I think most are genuine but I am aware of the risks, and my question was really to see if I was worrying too much or not.
      October 14, 2016 9:37 AM MDT

  • 7919
    The region-targeted ones generally don't know squat and they don't retain it. They look at your IP address and use the location it gives. As far as scams go, there should not be any problematic websites. If you still have a link to the site you were sent to, please email it to me, along with any info you recall, such as what the ad looked like and when you saw it. Those kinds of things wouldn't be tolerated and they'd be removed altogether. 
      October 14, 2016 10:42 AM MDT

  • 3637
    Thank you Just Asking.

    The ad is actually on the screen now!

    It shows a face-only portrait of a blonde woman smiling viavaciously at me (very pleasant but not really relevant: I suppose they had to think of some image!), above the caption / link "Incredibly Brilliant Idea to Discover If You Had PPI".

    Under that in tiny letters, it tells us it's from "iSmart Consumer Solutions". Following it revealed the internet address, "" just as my security software thought it was "dangerous", and posted this:

    "For your security BullGuard has blocked access to this page
    The site is listed as a malicious site that may be stealing identity information, plant viruses on your machine or do other harmful things.

    "The information we have indicate that this site:
    - Might be used for deceptive or fraudulent purposes, such as stealing financial or other user account information. Such sites are often designed to appear as legitimate sites in order to mislead users into entering their credentials."

    [Cut & paste quote}

    I assume Taboola, which I guess is the agency buying advertising space on web-sites, watches material to ensure it is safe, not least to safeguard itself. Also, as I say, Bullguard does occasionally block innocent web-sites, perhaps triggered by certain words within the site, or by signs of the site being attacked - I don't know. 

    Interestingly, another advertisement in the same set on this screen-full for a similar service, but from "The Claims Guys", does open with the address The ads for solar panels and eye treatment also work, but not the two games - though they probably won't run on my PC anyway. So my digital bulldog has sniffed out something in the iSmart Consumer Solutions site, but not in the other 4 ads or the 2 games.  

    I carried out a final test. I tried iSmart CS' address directly in the browser, and Bullguard blocked it from there, so has not discovered a weakness or fault in AM or Taboola. I suggest Taboola examines that web-site to see if it's been compromised. Given that iSmart is aimed at selling "compensation" deals to people miss-sold PPI, it's quite likely to attract hackers.

    If it hasn't,  perhaps Bullguard's being a bit over-sensitive!

      October 14, 2016 1:24 PM MDT

  • 7919
    Taboola does a really good job of screening their advertisers, but they have a couple of different tiers. Their lowest does supply crap ads, but I worked with our rep to bump us into a higher tier that's used by some of the bigger news agencies and I haven't seen an issue since.

    I went to and it redirected me to right away. I suspect your alert sytem didn't like the redirect, so it warned you that you weren't going to go to the site you thought you were going to. I have no idea why they have the link set up to go to a site that sends you to BBC, but clearly BBC is not a malicious site. It was the redirect that worried it.

    You and I won't see the same ads, so I still haven't seen the one you're referring to, but it doesn't seem to be a security risk. If you see it again, though and you're on a desktop, you can hover over it and click the "x" in the top right corner of the box. That gets rid of the ad and lets you report it with a reason. "Misleading" or "other" would probably be appropriate here. This post was edited by Just Asking at October 14, 2016 2:19 PM MDT
      October 14, 2016 2:18 PM MDT

  • 3637
    Thank you Just Asking.

    Very odd, though, that redirection!
      October 15, 2016 10:38 AM MDT