Google scams: How to identify them and stay safe

Google scams: How to identify them and stay safe

June 20, 2024 privacy 0

With nearly two billion active users, Google is a big draw for scammers. Some may claim that you have won a prize, while others might ask you to send a gift card in exchange for resolving a supposed issue. Read the article to learn more about Google scams and how to protect your data from bad actors. Most common Google scams Most Google scammers pretend to be someone they’re not — a government official, a company, or a trusted individual. Their aim is obvious — to gain financial profit or access to your sensitive data. Google impersonators Google impersonator scam Google is such a trusted brand that bad actors sometimes use its name to scam unsuspecting users. For example, scammers might send you an email posing as a Google Ads representative. They will tell you that the company’s billing address has changed and instruct you to send money to a new account for Google Ads services. You’ll even get detailed instructions on how to change the address. But if you pay, every penny you supposedly send to Google will land in a scammer’s account. Don’t update addresses or click on any links in that email. Instead, go directly to your Google account via your browser to check if the request is real. Scammers also sometimes impersonate Google HR and send fake job offers. You can recognize a con if they ask you to pay a training fee in advance. They may also send you an employment form and ask you to provide your personal information. But don’t fall into the trap — never send your sensitive information to them. It’s better to check and verify job offers on the official Google career page. How to identify a Google impersonation scam: Look for misspellings and unusual characters in the sender’s email address. Be wary of low-quality logos and strange formatting. Watch out for tactics like “Act now!” or “Your account will be suspended!” that encourage you to hurry to give out your private data. Beware of links that don’t lead to Google. Prize and lottery scams Google prize scam Who wouldn’t love to win a luxury vacation or a brand new iPhone? Scammers know everybody would, so they’ll send emails claiming you’ve hit the jackpot in a Google contest or lottery. Where’s the catch? Fraudsters will ask you for money or your banking credentials, claiming it’s necessary for you to get the prize. But remember — if you didn’t participate in any contest, you cannot win. Plus, Google doesn’t run random lotteries or offer spontaneous prizes, so every such email is a con. Red flags to look out for: Claims you’ve won a prize or lottery for a contest you didn’t enter. Requests for money or personal information to claim the prize. Google tech support scams Flashing pop-ups saying that your computer is infected and disclaimers that only Google tech support can help are not necessarily real. There’s probably nothing wrong with your computer, and instead, you’ve become a target in a tech support scam. These fake error messages are created to frighten you and make you pay a fee for the “problem” to be fixed. Scammers can ask you to provide remote access to your computer. Some may even call you to report an infected device. Don’t fall for it — real tech support won’t contact you out of the blue. It might be a tech support scam if: “Google support” contacts you unexpectedly. Someone asks you to give them remote access to your device. An “agent” asks you for money or a gift card to resolve the issue. Google account recovery scam Sometimes, scammers send you alarming emails that say someone tried accessing your Google account. The emails look official and legitimate, but you shouldn’t take that for granted. If the message urges you to click on a URL or provide personal details to “recover your account,” don’t respond. If you do, scammers will lead you to scam websites designed to steal your information. If your account really needs recovering, you’ll be able to do it in your account settings. Signs it’s a scam: Emails asking to verify your account via non-Google links. Requests to give away personal information to recover your account. Extortion and sextortion scams Cyber extortion and sextortion scams are types of fraud where scammers use threats and manipulation to get money or personal information. First, an extortionist or sextortionist will send you flattering messages or even gifts to make you trust them. Then they will ask you to keep conversations secret, provide personal information, or isolate yourself from friends and family. And finally, they’ll initiate sexual conversations, send you intimate pictures of “themselves,” and ask you to do the same. These people may even threaten you if you don’t. Once fraudsters have (or claim to have) compromising photos or videos of you, they’ll threaten to release this material publicly unless you pay them. Never pay. Report these messages and block the person. Red flags to look out for: Claims that they have compromising information about you. Requests for money in exchange for keeping your information safe. Google gift card scam A Google gift card scam may start with a request from a government agency, a family member, or their representative. Some cybercriminals may say that you owe money for taxes and the only way to avoid jail time or confiscation of your personal belongings is to send them a gift card. Others may tell you that your family member is in trouble and you need to pay in gift cards to remedy the situation. Sometimes, scammers will do everything they can to keep you from contacting your loved ones and getting to the bottom of the problem yourself. But don’t feel pressured. Double-check if your loved ones really need help. Signs of a Google gift card scam: Requests for gift cards to resolve unrelated issues like bills or fines. Scammers asking you to send gift card codes via email or SMS. {SHORTCODES.blogRelatedArticles} How is Google protecting you from scams? Google has an interest in fighting scams. It uses a combination of AI and human evaluation to protect users from dishonest behavior. Plus, Google makes it easy to report scam ads. Google Safe Browsing, for example, alerts you if you’re about to land on a risky page or file so you can avoid exposing your credentials or losing money to scammers. Besides alerts about potentially malicious sites, this tech giant also employs Google Critical Security Alerts to notify you if someone tries to log in to your account from an unfamiliar location. It’ll do the same if someone tries to change your password. Google also allows you to set up two-factor authentication (2FA). This way, even if someone figures out your password, they can’t access your account without the code confirmation. On top of that, Google’s scam filters keep your inbox clear of phishing attempts and malicious messages. They all go straight to the spam folder. Tips to stay safe To keep those pesky scammers away, follow these top tips to protect yourself from each of the abovementioned scams and stop bad actors before they even get close: Beware of Google impersonators. Legitimate emails from Google will always come from an official domain. Emails from other domains are likely scams. Also, watch out for a sense of urgency, phishing links, and unexpected attachments. Remember — Google will never ask you to share your personal information or passwords with it. Any email urging you to do otherwise is a con. No contest, no prize. We’ll repeat it again — if you didn’t participate in a contest, you didn’t win. If someone demands money or credentials in exchange for a prize — this is also a red flag. Ignore fake Google tech support calls. Google will never call you to offer you tech support out of the blue. Just hang up if you receive similar calls. And never allow remote control of your computer unless you’re sure you’re talking to official Google support. Be wary of bogus account recovery links. If you didn’t initiate an account recovery, there’s nothing to recover. Don’t react to emails urging you to click on a random recovery link. Share wisely, and don’t pay anyone to keep your data private. First, be mindful of what you share online. Second, never give someone money in exchange for keeping your personal information private. And third, if you receive such demands, report the contact and block them. Never send gift cards to anyone you don’t trust. Legal authorities and Google will never ask you to pay in gift cards. If someone requests them, they’re likely a scammer. What to do if you fall for a Google scam If you have fallen for a Google scam or suspect you’ve been scammed, it is essential to take immediate action. First, update the passwords to your Google account and all the accounts associated with it, such as those for social media. Then, run a full computer scan with antivirus software and remove any detected malware. And don’t forget to skim through your bank and credit card statements and check for unauthorized transactions. Once your accounts are safe, report the incident to Google. To better protect your accounts against future intrusions, create strong and unique passwords combining lower- and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters. The saying “lightning never strikes the same place twice” doesn’t apply to online scams. Educate yourself to avoid falling into the same trap again. Familiarize yourself with the most common scams and keep up with news about online fraud to better recognize them. How to report Google scams Even if you’ve been scammed, reporting scams to Google may stop bad actors from targeting others. Each report creates a safer online space for everyone. Report phishing scams Open the phishing email. Click the three vertical dots next to the “Reply” button. Click “Report phishing.” Report suspicious websites Click the three dots in the upper right corner of Chrome. Click “Help.” Select “Report an issue” and follow the instructions.

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