RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) —The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning the public of online scams in which cybercriminals have been found posing as brands in order to steal personal and financial information.

The FBI says the criminals use search engine advertisements to push a fake webpage impersonating a brand to the top of internet search results. The sites are said to be difficult to distinguish from the official webpage from the impersonated brand or service.

When users click on the fraud webpage link, they are directed to download a program that is actually malware designed to steal users’ personal and financial information.

“These advertisements have also been used to impersonate websites involved in finances, particularly cryptocurrency exchange platforms,” the FBI stated in a release. “These malicious sites appear to be real exchange platforms and prompt users to enter login credentials and financial information, giving criminal actors access to steal funds.”

The FBI said that not all advertisements are malicious in nature, but urges people to use caution when accessing a webpage through an advertisement link.

Tips to protect yourself

  • Watch for typos or misplaced letters in URLs to make sure the site is authentic
  • Type the business’ URL directly into the internet address bar to go directly to the site rather than through a search engine
  • Use an ad-blocking extension on your browser

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or malware based on brand impersonation from search engine advertisements, report the fraud to your local FBI field office at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/fieldoffices.