As a Google user, it’s imperative that you know what these scams look like, so that you can spot them, avoid them, and report them.
Be Aware of These 4 Common Google Scams
Google is beloved for its simple user interface and search-friendly algorithm that makes it easy to find precisely what you’re looking for. So if you find something that looks sketchy or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Google is very determined to shut down questionable behavior and/or scams that people try to peddle via its platform.
Here are a few common ones that hackers rely on:
Suspended AdWords Account Scam
Google AdWords generates billions of dollars annually (with millions of advertisers using the platform). If you have an AdWords account, you should frequently log in and check your account to ensure everything is as it should be.
If you ever receive an email that claims your Google AdWords account has been suspended, your “antenna” should go up – especially if they claim you owe a lot of money. While Google can suspend accounts that owe money, they follow a very specific process. The email will never come from a non-Google address.
Likewise, you’ll never be required to download a file or visit a third-party website. If you notice links such as these, it’s most likely a phishing scam.
In one popular scam, individuals receive a phone call or email purporting to be from the IRS. The IRS “official” instructs you to pay a delinquent tax debt using a Google Play card or you’ll be arrested. This is a scam.
The IRS never initiates contact by email, SMS, or social media. You’ll receive written confirmation from the IRS if they ever need to contact you. Please report all IRS-related scams to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google SMS Account Recovery Scam
If you receive an unsolicited SMS claiming your Google account has been hacked or compromised, you should immediately log in to your account via a computer and check your security settings. You’ll be able to see all recent activity and make sure there’s no unauthorized access. Typically the message will say something like this:
“Google Message #43572: Your Gmail account has been compromised. Google needs to call you to verify your identity. Please text back with 'READY' when you are ready to receive a call.”
Never respond to a message like this. Instead, forward it to your phone carrier’s spam reporting number and immediately update your Google account password.
One popular scam is something called a “Google Lottery Scam.” With this scam, someone emails you claiming you’ve won a “Google Lottery.” They’ll ask you for personal details to verify the winnings. And in some cases, they’ll even ask for a fee to release the funds. They may call this a “money release fund,” “currency exchange,” or “tax fee.”
Google does not run lotteries. They’ll also never ask for personal information or payment. Do not reply back to the email or click any links contained within the body of the email. Immediately report the email to your email provider. If you have a Gmail account, you can click here to learn more about how to report phishing.
Stay Vigilant and Proactive
The thing about hackers is they’re constantly evolving. Their bag of tricks is always in flux. However, you can learn a lot by studying past scams. Most hackers prefer to work with a framework that’s been effective in the past, so they’ll simply take an old method and put a new twist on it.
If you notice a scam – or something that could be a scam – you should immediately notify the authorities and report it to Google. You may also want to notify others via social media.
Remember that many online users aren’t as savvy or proactive as you. By letting your voice be heard, you can hopefully prevent others from becoming victims.