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Beware Sponsored Search Results

We’ve been discussing search engines, and I thought it was important to warn you about a hidden danger that can turn up when you search for something online. Sponsored results are when a company pays a search engine to include their product in the top results for a search.

Most of the time it’s fairly harmless.  For example, if I search for “pasta recipes” using Google, my top results are recipes sponsored by two pasta companies.

http://imgsrv.worldstart.com/images/ct-images/2017/04/pasta-recipes-google.jpg

If you look closely, you’ll see the little “Ad” icon next to the result.

pasta-recipes-google-AD

In most cases, this isn’t really too much of a problem. A pasta company might have some great pasta recipes. Plus you can always just scroll right by. But there are cases in which these sponsored results can cause you problems.

For example, if I search for “Microsoft customer service number.”

http://imgsrv.worldstart.com/images/ct-images/2017/04/microsoft-customer-service.jpg

Those first two results are for companies that are not affiliated with Microsoft. If you call them, they will try to get you to sign up for support plans and services that can be expensive. Services that, in most cases, would be free when offered by Microsoft. The same thing can also happen with Facebook and other services.

facebook-support-number

I talked to a reader who was having a minor facebook issue. When she called the number in the ad, someone told her she had malware and needed an expensive support plan.

Always be very careful with those search engine results. You may want to consider scrolling right past those sponsored results.

~ Cynthia