June 26, 2014, 10:55 AM

Watchdog group blasts Google for ads tied to credit card fraud

The Digital Citizens Alliance says it found thousands of search results on YouTube.com providing information on how to obtain stolen credit card account numbers. Google says it has “stringent” ad guidelines and removes “millions” of videos from YouTube every year that violate its policies.

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Theft of credit card account information is making many consumers reluctant to shop online, according to new research commissioned by Digital Citizens Alliance. At the same time, the Internet watchdog group says online search leader Google Inc. is profiting from ads that offer to sell stolen credit card data.

The alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and government officials on Internet-based threats to payment security and other matters, says it conducted searches earlier this month on YouTube.com that showed thousands of videos in search results “that could lead” to sellers of stolen credit card data. It searched via phrases that included terms related to payment card security, including “CVV,” “bank log-in” and “SSN.” CVV, or card verification value, is the three- or four-digit code printed on payment cards that merchants use to verify that an online buyer actually has the plastic card in hand and is not just using a stolen card account number. SSN stands for Social Security number.

For example, the group says, searching on YouTube produced the following numbers of results for the following phrases:

● “how to get credit card numbers that work 2014,” 15,900 results;

● “buy cc numbers,” 8,820 results;

● “CC number with CVV,” 4,160 results;

● “CC with CVV and SSN,” 785 results.

In some cases, the videos—such as one titled “buy credit cards and social security numbers online” that appears when searching on the phrase “buy cc numbers”—ironically run with adjacent online ads sponsored by American Express Co. and other major credit card companies, the alliance says. The report suggests that credit card companies unwittingly have their ads placed in or near such videos. A spokeswoman for American Express did not immediately return a request for comment.

“The sad takeaway from the report is that YouTube continues to be used by rogue operators to conduct criminal acts, and not only does Google allow it to continue, but they profit from it by selling ads,” says Tom Gavin, executive director of Digital Citizens.

A Google spokesman declined to comment directly on the Digital Citizens report, but issued the following statement: “Our guidelines prohibit any content encouraging illegal activities, including videos promoting the sale of illegal goods. YouTube's review teams respond to videos flagged for our attention around the clock, removing millions of videos each year that violate our policies. We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work to prevent ads appearing against any video, channel or page once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners.”

Although the guidelines, which are listed on Google’s web site, don’t appear to specifically refer to credit card information, they do say that “revealing other people’s personal information … [is] taken very seriously. Anyone caught doing these things may be permanently banned from YouTube.”

The Digital Citizens Alliance also released results from a survey it commissioned by Zogby Analytics. The survey, conducted earlier this month, found that 48% of 1000 respondents said that credit card theft or fraud has made them more reluctant to make an online purchase.


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