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Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

[ Edited ]
Follower ✭ ✭ ☆
# 1
Follower ✭ ✭ ☆

Hi all,

 

There is something very strange going on with the UK adwords results for the term "life insurance". I think the advertisers are using hacked adwords accounts or fraud in some way as what they are doing doesnt make any sense.

 

Every day this advertiser bids to the very top of the term "life insurance". They are bidding so highly that they are number 1, 95% of the time. This would be very very expensive to do. But every single day they use a different domain name, and every domain name is very spammy and when you check the whois, every domain is bought using a different persons name and are mostly registered in the last few weeks. Here are just a handful of the domains they have used recently:

 

ukbest-lifecover.co.uk
cheaplife-ukcover.co.uk
lifeinsurance-ukcheap.co.uk
policy-protection-Lowcost.co.uk
quote-life-policy-uk.co.uk
ukquote-lifepolicy.co.uk
ukcheap-lifeinsurance.co.uk
low-cost-policy-protection.co.uk
compareuk-andsave.co.uk
cheap-policies-uk.co.uk

cheapestlife-protectinsurance.co.uk

life-uk-cheapestcover.co.uk
uklifeinsuranceukonline.co.uk
cheapestlife-comparesave.co.uk
life-uk-cheapercover.co.uk
cheaplife-protectinsurance.co.uk
life-lowcost-protect.co.uk

policies-uk-lifequotes.co.uk

insuranceonlineuklife.co.uk

 

and here is the click string to their latest advert:

 

https://www.google.co.uk/aclk?sa=L&ai=CMqThv6trV8qsIYO87gbFgKmgC_DlivtE2On2wfsCm4b2BwgAEAEoA2C7hsSD0...

 

They use the new domain to sit at the top of adwords for one of the most expensive terms in the UK for one day then after a few days they take the site down. Up until recently it they always used the same very basic design as this one: cheapestlife-comparesave.co.uk 

 

This has been going on for months - and every day the domain is different. I cannot think of a legitimate reason an advertiser would do this as it would be far to expensive to generate leads and make a profit in this way. Doing this they would get no benefit of ad history or ctr so a legitimate advertiser wouldn't do it.

 

The only way I think they would do it is if they weren't paying for clicks via either adwords account hacking or fraud and are therefore changing domains daily to make it difficult for Google to stop them.

 

I reported the strange behaviour to Google and the advert started to show less frequently but now they have come back with 2 new website designs, possibly to try to make it harder for google to stop: insuranceonlineuklife.co.uk and online-cheaper-lifecover.co.uk

 

I'm amazed these sites are even making it through the ad approval process as they have hardly any contact details at all on them. This constant domain changing (and site removal) also makes it very hard for any customer to complain or find where they applied the day before so the user experience is terrible.

 

As a legitimate advertiser i'd love to know whats going on here as when they are advertising it is very difficult to compete and if they are commiting fraud they will be costing Google lot of money.

 

Thank you for your help as always

 

Lily-B

2 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 2
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
Hey Lily-B,

I worked as PPC manager for an insurance company and saw similar things, but there's actually nothing wrong with this and while it's likely expensive, insurance companies often lose money on insurance terms simply to get a bigger market share.

If you suspect the sites themselves of being a bit spammy you can contact the Financial Services Authority and ask them "Who are these people?" - if they're not registered or aren't an affiliate then they'll be investigated.

Ali

Re: Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

Follower ✭ ✭ ☆
# 3
Follower ✭ ✭ ☆
Hi Ali,

Thanks so much for the reply,

I know what you mean about losing money to gain market share, we do it ourselves on occasion, however this is very strange behaviour that goes beyond loss leading.

There is no legitimate reason I can think of why anyone would change the url every day and buy the url in a different name every day and change the address shown as the contact us page on the virtually every day. If I were to loss lead i'd keep the brand the same every day and just bid stupidly high to maintain the no 1 spot. The only reason i'd change urls in the way they are doing is if I had something to hide.

They are sending the leads to a well known broker so I believe that they are an affiliate (its easy to find out who they work with by filling their form in). At this stage I'd rather not take it to the FCA and give the firm who is buying their leads grief. I'd prefer to let Google take the necessary action. From conversations I've had I'm sure Google are trying to stop them so I'm fairly certain something dodgy must be happening. Even if its not fraud, Google won't like the lack of contact details and the difficulty their swapping of urls may cause customers.

I'm hoping someone can spot a clue that I'm missing. I'd love to know what they are doing and @MosheTLV and others often spot things I haven't thought of.

Lily-B

Re: Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 4
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
Hi Lily-B,

Changing the URL can be a way to optimise CPC and CPA, Ad Rank, QS. I really can't think of a reason why Google would investigate unless it's for something in their account that we can't see as outsiders.

The WHOIS addresses do look strange - one appears to be a Starbucks, for example. But even though something's fishy I can't see a policy violation here.

Ali

Re: Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

Follower ✭ ✭ ☆
# 5
Follower ✭ ✭ ☆
Hi Ali,

I agree, a url change could help the CPC and CPA, Ad Rank, QS etc... but not changing it over 100 times. That goes way beyond optimisation and the urls they are using are all stink of spam. None of the domains in that list suggests optimisation especially as they only target 1 (possibly 2 key-phrases) and always with the same advert text. You wouldn't buy half of the domains on that list if you were trying to boost any of the above rank/conversion factors for the target the term "life insurance"

Its definitely fishy.

Re the policy violation, at the very least I was thinking: https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/6020955

Two of the designs they use dont have contact us pages at all so customers have no way of contacting these sites other than an address at the bottom. This address changes every day when they change the url so the contact details cannot be real. Also, they advertise the site for a day, then remove it from the web totally a few days later so any customer has no way of going back to the site to contact them.

We know Google only want to promote genuine advertisers who give a good customer experience. I'm sure they would want to stop this method of advertising for quality reasons even if its not a fraud of some kind.

Lily-B

Re: Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 6
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
Please let me know if Google respond and/or if the sites stop appearing – I’d be interested in seeing your detective work in action!

Re: Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

Top Contributor
# 7
Top Contributor

Hello again @Lily B;

We don't have the tools to investigate fraud or any other prohibited practices (e.g. Hacking)

That's only Google can do

As a side note, I have seen in my career quite a few advertisers who have constantly focused on the goal of winning the first position. To achieve this goal they were willing to allocate money, labor and staff....

 

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
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Re: Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

Top Contributor
# 8
Top Contributor
My best guess:

They are paying for their ads.
Their sites or accounts keep getting suspended.
They open new accounts with new sites.

If the WHOIS for each domain is completely different, and fake, that would be a big clue that they are repeatedly opening new accounts.

Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

[ Edited ]
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 9
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

It's now over 2 years and on and this is still happening. Same strange URLs, changed almost daily, no contact information. No company name.

 

http://www.gocompare-com-life-insuranced.uk/life-insurance/life-insurance-cdw.php

 

@MosheTLV @Lily B what do you think?

 

Something strange going on - possible fraud / hacked adwords accounts or stolen credit cards?

Top Contributor
# 10
Top Contributor

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