Recognising false
advertisements in Google

Watch out for fake Google ads

Fake company ads in Google. You have probably already heard of them. Hopefully, you haven’t yet fallen victim to them. We give you some tips to distinguish real companies from fake ones.

We have noticed that the number of false advertisements has recentlyincreased enormously. Because Google ignores our repeated reports, we want to warn you. This phenomenon occurs mainly in emergency services. Scammers like to take advantage of situations when you are less alert. If you have locked yourself out or if there is a bad sewer smell in your house, you want a quick solution. These are the moments when it is best to be extra vigilant.


How many false advertisements are there?

We have researched the scale of this type of advertising. During the research, we focused on‘plumbing services’. The result is shocking.

In Antwerp, during the period we looked at, 27 companies advertised for search terms related to ‘ plumbing service’. Of those 27, 14 websites violate the Google Ads guidelines and 8 are downright fake. In fact, of the 5 most frequently displayed websites, 4 are fake.

In order to show that this is not a regional problem, we also investigated Ghent in addition to Antwerp. Here, we found similar results. There are 24 companies (websites) that advertise for search terms related to the ‘ plumbing service’ in Ghent. Of those 24, 8 websites violate the Google Ads guidelines and 7 are downright fake. In Ghent, 2 of the 5 most displayed companies are fake.


Helpful tips for spotting fake companies

With these 4 useful tips, you can distinguish real companies from scammers:

  • VAT number
    The provision of a valid VAT number is an obligation. If you cannot find a VAT number on a website, this may indicate that this is not a legitimate company. If in doubt, look the company up in the Belgian VAT register.
  • Address details
    Just like VAT details, current address details are also mandatory. Watch out if you cannot find them on the website.
  • Foreign zone numbers
    VDoes the website mention a telephone number that you do not immediately recognise? Then beware.085 numbers (zone-free Dutch phone numbers) are suspicious. If you want to be sure that it is a real company, you can look up the phone number in Google. Do you find the phone number on different websites? Play it safe and look for another company.
  • Reviews
    Do you doubt the authenticity of a company? Nowadays practically every website list reviews. Paste the review in Google. If the text appears on several websites, you can be sure that it is an unreliable company.


Here are some relevant paragraphs from the Google Ads policy:

Prohibited practices:
We want users to trust the ads on our platform. Therefore, we strive for clarity and honesty, and provide information that users need to make informed decisions. We do not permit ads or destinations that mislead users by excluding relevant product information or providing misleading information about products, services or companies. Examples of misrepresentation omit or obscure billing information, such as how, what and when users are charged; omit or obscure fees associated with financial services, such as interest rates, charges and fines; omit VAT or licence numbers, contact details or physical addresses where relevant; Promise offers that are not available; make misleading or unrealistic claims about weight loss or financial gain; collect donations under false pretences; engage in ‘phishing’ or falsely claim to be a reputable company in order to get users to provide personal or financial information.


Misleading statements:
The following is not permitted

Make misleading statements or conceal or omit important information about your identity, affiliations or qualifications

Examples (not exhaustive): Implying partnership with or endorsement by another person, organization, or company for a product or service without the knowledge of the other party; an affiliate marketer advertising legal services without mentioning that the marketer does not provide legal services himself; an unlicensed contractor claiming to be a licensed supplier; failure to provide products or services listed in the advertisement due to lack of qualifications

Providing an incorrect business name or a name that does not clearly represent the advertised business or is indistinguishable from similar businesses in the ad or user interactions

If you wish, you can read the full Google Ads policy here.


What can you do?

You can act yourself. You can report suspicious adverts to Google on this page.The Belgian Ministry for Economic Affairs (FOD Economie) also has a reporting system for malicious companies.

Proudly powered by Applic Group