What Does a $6.5 Million Classiscam Teach Us About Online Ad Scam Prevention?


A report by Group-IB described a scam that targeted European internet users and outlined that criminals managed to bring in $6.5 million from it in 2020 alone. The Classiscam scheme is an automated scam-as-a-service that mimics actual pages to steal payment information and user information. Each one can be traced to a Telegram bot on the fledgeling social media site. How are scams like this impacting consumers and website visitors?

Malicious Ads Impact Trust in Advertising

A major quality control issue that arises on sites that host ads and are known for pop-ups, video embeds, and a lot of multimedia are malicious ads that attempt to mislead site visitors. Indeed, auto redirect ads are pop-ups that cover the content (and the screen on mobile devices) and often make it difficult to close. Sometimes closing results in a redirect to the app store or to another website.

Occasionally, these ads will claim the device has been locked and users must pay a penalty to unlock them. For some site visitors, they discredit digital advertising in general and contribute to negative attitudes towards all online advertising. As online advertising is integral to many companies’ strategies to reach their consumers, this could have a large impact.

Consumer Spending Increases – So Does Opportunity for Crime

The proliferation of cybercrime – no longer a typo-filled email – that happens without us realising could be benefitting from the increase in online shopping. The worst thing about the Classiscam is that it happens once but can then use the payment information in future. So, consumers may not immediately realise that there is something amiss. If someone is prone to online shopping, they may not initially realise a payment isn’t genuine, especially as many payment companies aren’t immediately identifiable when listed on a bank statement.  

Though despite the prolific nature of some of these scams, shopping behaviour continues to lean towards online. A McKinsey market research report for 2020 found that online shopping continued to rise across all manner of products – from apparel and footwear to home furnishings and appliances. This only means that there is a greater pool of people who need to be wary.

Customer Education is Needed

There is a way to prevent such cybercrime from having too much of an impact on the digital landscape: education. By ensuring each customer understands what scams look like and how to defend against them, they are less likely to be caught out. However, there may be an element of distrust to regular ads that customers feel are not genuine.

Understanding what makes an ad genuine and what markers for fake ads look like could save money and time in the long run. Customers should also be encouraged to regularly check their bank statements. Many online bank providers allow this as a matter of course and it works to ensure no untoward payments are occurring.

One of the major issues is that customers might not feel confident in telling the difference between a scam ad and a genuine one. This could end up harming genuine companies who rely on such online ads. The solution is for each customer to be vigilant and to have the tools. The Classiscam may have taken $6.5 million, but it can also teach us a lesson in educating ourselves on scam ads.

Tech Digest Correspondent