Google’s Dark Side: 5 search terms to avoid at all cost
Apr 30, 2023, 5:45 AM
(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Ever Google search for coupon or promo codes? You’ll probably waste 15 minutes putting in codes that don’t work. At worst, you’ll end up on a malware-infected site. Use these proven tricks to save money instead.
Streaming is expensive, so you might be tempted to look up free TV shows or movies. Don’t do it. There are seriously sketchy sites out there. I put together a list of ways to get free movies and shows you can trust.
It doesn’t end there — not even close. How can a simple Google search be dangerous? Keep reading.
SEO poisoning and scammy ads
Google anything and you get pages of search results. At the very top are the “Sponsored Results.” These are paid ads businesses use to drive traffic to their websites.
Google doesn’t vet everyone who buys an ad. Cybercrooks can buy ads just like trustworthy companies — except they hide nasty malware on their sites. Scammers are getting good at SEO, so their malicious search results are at the top of the organic results.
So, what terms should you avoid? Sadly, there’s a whole lot. Let’s focus on five that could do some real damage.
1. Free credit report
There are legitimate ways to get a free credit report. But cybercriminals go after the juiciest search terms and think about all they can get their hands on if you think it’s a site you can trust.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax) to provide U.S. consumers with a free annual credit report. There are a variety of ways you can request a copy of your annual report from each agency:
● Online: www.AnnualCreditReport.com
● Phone: 1-877-FACTACT (1-877-322-8882)
If you want to send by mail, download and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form, then send it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If you submit your request via phone or mail, your credit report will be mailed to you within 15 days once the paperwork is received.
2. Tech support phone numbers
Fake numbers are a classic. If scammers can figure out how to get your bank’s name to appear when they call, you can bet they can get their numbers high in searches.
Here are a few of the most searched:
● Amazon: 888-280-4331
● Microsoft: 800-642-7676
● Apple: 800-275-2273
● Google: 650-253-0000
● Meta (Facebook and Instagram): 650-543-4800
For more tech company numbers and support sites if you prefer to contact online, go here.
3. How to make money online
On my national radio show, I get so many questions about whether an amazing money-making opportunity is real. Almost always, my answer is no.
There is certainly money to be made at home, but if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Some companies offer awesome employee perks or high pay — but good jobs are hard to find. If one falls out of the virtual sky with more pay or perks than you’d get with a similar position with another company, be skeptical.
Also, be wary of contract or part-time jobs that come with many unusual perks. This could be a part-time office support job you’re doing remotely with a surprisingly generous bonus compensation plan or a job offering you a much more flexible schedule than expected.
Here are nine more signs a job offer is bogus so you don’t get scammed.
4. Free people search
People finder, people search, people lookup — no matter what you call these sites, they are notorious for ripping people off.
You’re curious about a new love interest, business contact, or old friend. There are (free) ways to dig up dirt, but these sites are simply trying to reel you into an expensive subscription.
What to do instead?
Pro tip: Your info is likely on many scummy people search sites. You can wipe it out. I have a series of how-to articles, Opt-out Tuesday, to help you wipe your personal details.
5. Crypto wallet
Have some money in crypto or trying to get in while prices are low? That search is not the way to find a wallet to store your digital currency. It’s a road to disaster.
When you buy cryptocurrency on an exchange like Coinbase, a wallet is created for you — one that the exchange controls. This is called a custodial wallet. To move your crypto, buy things with it or stake it to earn money, you need to move to a self-custody wallet. That means you have complete control over the wallet and everything inside it. It also means people are more at risk of being scammed out of their funds.
Pro tip: Every wallet has a “seed phrase” made up of typically 12 to 24 random-seeming words. Never, ever give this out. It is the key to open your wallet from any device.
Here on my site, we list a few of the most popular wallets and the correct links to download them.
Keep your tech-know going
My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.
Plus, are you being stalked online? A forensic expert gives tell-tale signs and tools to find the person. Also, why Google went down $57B in one day and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth security gotchas. And a hidden secret ID on your phone that gives away your private details to anyone.
Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”
Sound like a tech pro, even if you’re not! Award-winning popular host Kim Komando is your secret weapon. Listen on 425+ radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 400,000 people who get her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.