Os perigosos resultados do Google para buscas de iGaming
Foto: FreePik

In recent years, the iGaming market in Brazil has grown exponentially, attracting millions of players in search of entertainment and profit. This growing interest has also brought a giant wave of scammers to this niche, trying to deceive users using different methods. One of these scam attempts is precisely linked to Google searches and has become increasingly visible.

The problem

When searching for content related to betting sites or online casinos on Google, many users have come across very peculiar results. Below is an example for “casino with free spins”, a popular term with hundreds of monthly searches:

Google's dangerous results for iGaming searches

In the first results we see several websites with the .gov domain that have been invaded or corrupted by hackers. “An experienced user informed about the dangers of the internet immediately notices that there is something wrong with these results, as the titles and descriptions are very strange and incoherent, and there is also no type of connection between the supposed content of the page and the name and domain of the site”, says Stephanie Pinheiro, content manager at jogodeapostas.com, a website specialized in online casino content.

However, most users trust Google and are used to obtaining reliable results in the top positions, creating a false sense of security. “Scammers use black-hat SEO techniques on highly authoritative domains, a very dangerous combination that has managed to fool Google”, concludes the market expert.

This phenomenon is particularly worrying due to the use of hacked government domains (.gov.br) to commit fraud. These domains, which both Google and users trust, are exploited by scammers to distribute phishing links or redirect traffic to betting platforms – some of very dubious quality. These are the two most common frauds. It is worth clarifying that websites with address.gov.br must be used exclusively to transmit information from government entities.

Although these are the domains that have been most exploited for these scams, there are several other sites with great authority from other sectors that have also been exploited for the same purpose, from the health sector to law. The reason is quite simple: the internet is full of websites without any type of maintenance and very vulnerable, which become easy targets for cybercriminals. This type of hack is called defacement and consists of altering page content by exploiting loopholes in the sites’ servers. This situation puts the safety of bettors at risk and challenges the integrity of online searches.

The impact for users and the industry

This problem is not exactly new and had even been reported in the Brazilian press at the end of 2023. Working in the iGaming market since 2015, Lucas Oliveira is the current editor of sitedeapostas.com and has been closely following the entire situation and its impact on the various players in the sector.

The expert tells iGaming Brazil that “this attempted scheme has existed for many years, but it seems that scammers have recently found the perfect formula to trick Google. Currently, in almost every search related to “betting” it is possible to find a hacked website or another type of spam. And in many of these searches, the difficult part is finding a legitimate site with a good answer among the dozens of fraudulent results.”

Over the last few months the situation has become increasingly serious: not only are there more websites being hacked every day, but Google has updated its product and placed more websites with domains with an excellent reputation at the top of the results. Lucas confirms that “the analysis tools prove this worsening. Since March [date of Google’s last major update to its algorithm] the hacked .gov sites were the ones that gained the most visibility for searches related to iGaming.”

User security is seriously compromised. Clicking on a link of this type is not dangerous in itself, but serious problems can arise if the user interacts with the page to which they are redirected. In addition to the risk of the user being directed to malicious websites that can steal personal and financial information, there is also the danger of websites installing malware on devices, resulting in potential financial losses and privacy violations.

Users’ confidence in the security of their online information is shaken, making them more cautious and suspicious when looking for new sites and services in the betting world.

Google's dangerous results for iGaming searches

Those who have been feeling this impact are also the bookmakers themselves. As you can see in the image above, there is a fraudulent website in third position for the search “Aposta Ganha”, a very popular betting website in Brazil. There are many examples and they vary from day to day.

The presence of fraudulent websites associated with searches for specific brands directly damages their reputation. When a user encounters these types of results, the brand’s credibility is called into question, which can result in lost customers and an increase in general distrust of your product.

Google has already announced that it is actively fighting all forms of spam to keep its results intact, safe and useful for all users. It is also up to government entities to take greater care with the security of their websites, in order to ensure that their domains are not exploited for cybercrime.