Google Earns Ad Money Off YouTube Videos Hawking Stolen Credit Cards, Says Watchdog Group

The Digital Citizens Alliance, an internet safety coalition, is calling out Google for allowing videos that promote the sale of stolen and bogus credit cards to appear on YouTube and then profiting from ads shown alongside the videos.

Youtube stolen credit cards ads

Source: Digital Citizens Alliance

In its latest report [PDF], “Breach of Trust: How the Online Market for Stolen and Bogus Credit Cards is Eroding Confidence in the Internet”, the watchdog group includes several examples like the one above which shows an ad for Target — the company that made headlines last year after a major security breach left thousands of credit card numbers exposed — next to a video showcasing credit cards, social security numbers and bank logins for sale on YouTube.

The DSA report emphasizes that data breaches and supply and demand for ill-gotten credit cards is eroding consumer trust and damaging the entire ecommerce landscape. A survey of US consumers commissioned by the group found that:

  • 84 percent called the issue of thieves hacking into retailers to steal card numbers or stolen credit card numbers showing up online a “serious” issue, with 58 percent calling it “very serious.”
  • 37 percent report that they have had their credit card stolen or compromised. Nearly half of those said they never an explanation for or discovered the cause of the theft or compromise.
  • 48 percent – say that the prospect of credit card theft or fraud has made them more reluctant to make an online purchase.

The DSA has issued reports in the past that show ads running next to videos for rogue online pharmacies, fake passports, performance enhancing drugs and other illicit activities on Google and YouTube. Ben Edelman, a professor at Harvard Business School, estimated that Google has earned over $1 billion dollars from ads that appear adjacent to videos promoting illegal activities. Google has also come under fire from state attorneys general for not doing enough to pull these types of videos from YouTube and accused of looking the other way while reaping the revenue benefits.

Google issued its standard response, as the DSA predicted they would, stating that they take user safety seriously, have guidelines that prohibit content encouraging illegal activities and work to prevent ads appearing next to content deemed inappropriate for their advertising partners.

To try to get Google to take action, the DSA says it’s going to directly to the brands whose ads have appeared next to this kind of content.


The next stage then seems to be outreach to the brands who certainly don’t want to be featured on YouTube videos promoting credit card theft and fraud, illegal drug sales, steroids, escorts or counterfeits.

Our next step as Digital Citizens is to start working with the brands, raising their awareness to the problem and hopefully convincing them to urge Google to step up and take responsibility.

A quick search today for “cc with cvv and ssn” yielded numerous videos showing off supposedly valid credit card numbers for sale. The ads shown included several for Google AdWords and YouTube advertising.

YouTube Ads ad on stolen credit cards video

Related Topics: Channel: Video | Google | Google: Business Issues | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: YouTube | Legal: General | Top News


About The Author: writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting. Beyond Search Engine Land, Ginny provides search marketing and demand generation advice for ecommerce companies. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter

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