Google may have accidentally approved an ad for a Target gift card scam

Most of us check our gift card balances online (because who really keeps those receipts that tell us how much money we have left?), further compounding an apparent forgetfulness of Google. It appears that Google inadvertently approved a prominent ad for a fake Target gift card balance checker intended to steal your funds.

A Reddit user on r/assholedesign discovered the slip-up when searching Google for “target gift card balance” on mobile, and discovered that the very first result was an ad titled “Check card balance -gift – Target”. Only, the site isn’t Target – it’s actually a site called “bristolhirevan”. The ad description says it will let you check your gift card balance “immediately” and also has “all sizes of vans to suit your needs” – how can you get more legitimacy than that? My colleague Sean Hollister and I found the same bogus ad while researching the exact phrase ourselves.

Ok, although the name of the site does not sound convincing at all, its interface looks like the real thing, although the real target site requires you to log in to check your gift card balance, while this fake site does not. . Besides that, the only things wrong with the webpage are the URL, which still has the domain “bristolhirevan” and the fact that every link on the page leads to Target’s real homepage, despite the promise to link to a weekly ad or giveaway registry. If you were really in a hurry (and distracted enough to ignore the mention of the vans), you might accidentally enter your gift card number and security code here, causing it to be stolen.

Gift card scams seem to be on the rise. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that victims of gift card scams lost a total of $148 million in the first nine months of 2021, more than all of 2020 Target gift cards are apparently the cards of choice for scammers, as FTC data shows people were scammed with $35 million worth of Target gift cards last year, more than double the amount of any other. gift card brand.

As the FTC pointed out, gift card scams often take place over the phone, with the scammer posing as an employee of a company like Google or Amazon (or even someone from a federal agency) who asks the victim to make a payment in the form of a gift card. However, fake balance check sites like these often hide in plain sight, seemingly even as ads on Google.

A 2020 report from beeping computer draws attention to sites posing as Target gift card balance check pages, noting that Target is actually one of the most popular sites for scammers to replicate. The edge contacted Google with a request for comment on how this scam was able to escape its ad review process, and whether it will be removed, but did not immediately receive a response.

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