4 Google Scams to Avoid and Report

Google is the largest search engine in the world. Billions of search queries are conducted on the platform every single day. And any time you have a platform or tool that’s used by so many people, it becomes a target for hackers, scammers, and cybercriminals.

4 Google Scams to Avoid and Report

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.

  • Tax Payment 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 phishing@irs.gov.

  • 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.

  • Google Lottery Fund

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.

Check the comment section below for additional information, share what you know, or ask a question about this article by leaving a comment below. And, to quickly find answers to your questions, use our search Search engine.

Note: Some of the information in samples on this website may have been impersonated or spoofed.

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Online Threat Alerts Security Tips

Pay the safest way

Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or if the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly.

Guard your personal information

In any transaction you conduct, make sure to check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the seller, charity, company, or organization is credible. Be especially wary if the entity is unfamiliar to you. Always call the number found on a website’s contact information to make sure the number legitimately belongs to the entity you are dealing with.

Be careful of the information you share

Never give out your codes, passwords or personal information, unless you are sure of who you're dealing with

Know who you’re dealing with

Crooks pretending to be from companies you do business with may call or send an email, claiming they need to verify your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something and know who you are sending payment to. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.

Check your accounts

Regularly check your account transactions and report any suspicious or unauthorised transactions.

Don’t believe promises of easy money

If someone claims that you can earn money with little or no work, get a loan or credit card even if you have bad credit, or make money on an investment with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam. Oftentimes, offers that seem too good to be true, actually are too good to be true.

Do not open email from people you don’t know

If you are unsure whether an email you received is legitimate, try contacting the sender directly via other means. Do not click on any links in an email unless you are sure it is safe.

Think before you click

If an email or text message looks suspicious, don’t open any attachments or click on the links.

Verify urgent requests or unsolicited emails, messages or phone calls before you respond

If you receive a message or a phone call asking for immediate action and don't know the sender, it could be a phishing message.

Be careful with links and new website addresses

Malicious website addresses may appear almost identical to legitimate sites. Scammers often use a slight variation in spelling or logo to lure you. Malicious links can also come from friends whose email has unknowingly been compromised, so be careful.

Secure your personal information

Before providing any personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, account numbers, and passwords, be sure the website is secure.

Stay informed on the latest cyber threats

Keep yourself up to date on current scams by visiting this website daily.

Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are critical to online security.

Keep your software up to date and maintain preventative software programs

Keep all of your software applications up to date on your computers and mobile devices. Install software that provides antivirus, firewall, and email filter services.

Update the operating systems on your electronic devices

Make sure your operating systems (OSs) and applications are up to date on all of your electronic devices. Older and unpatched versions of OSs and software are the target of many hacks. Read the CISA security tip on Understanding Patches and Software Updates for more information.

What if You Got Scammed?

Stop Contact With The Scammer

Hang up the phone. Do not reply to emails, messages, or letters that the scammer sends. Do not make any more payments to the scammer. Beware of additional scammers who may contact you claiming they can help you get your lost money back.

Secure Your Finances

  • Report potentially compromised bank account, credit or debit card information to your financial institution(s) immediately. They may be able to cancel or reverse fraudulent transactions.
  • Notify the three major credit bureaus. They can add a fraud alert to warn potential credit grantors that you may be a victim of identity theft. You may also want to consider placing a free security freeze on your credit report. Doing so prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit report entirely, which will prevent them from extending credit:

Check Your Computer

If your computer was accessed or otherwise affected by a scam, check to make sure that your anti-virus is up-to-date and running and that your system is free of malware and keylogging software. You may also need to seek the help of a computer repair company. Consider utilizing the Better Business Bureau’s website to find a reputable company.

Change Your Account Passwords

Update your bank, credit card, social media, and email account passwords to try to limit further unauthorized access. Make sure to choose strong passwords when changing account passwords.

Report The Scam

Reporting helps protect others. While agencies can’t always track down perpetrators of crimes against scammers, they can utilize the information gathered to record patterns of abuse which may lead to action being taken against a company or industry.

Report your issue to the following agencies based on the nature of the scam:

  • Local Law Enforcement: Consumers are encouraged to report scams to their local police department or sheriff’s office, especially if you lost money or property or had your identity compromised.
  • Federal Trade Commission: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
  • Identitytheft.gov: If someone is using your personal information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, report it at www.identitytheft.gov. This federal government site will also help you create your Identity Theft Report and a personal recovery plan based on your situation. Questions can be directed to 877-ID THEFT.

How To Recognize a Phishing Scam

Scammers use email or text messages to try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful.

Scammers often update their tactics to keep up with the latest news or trends, but here are some common tactics used in phishing emails or text messages:

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. You might get an unexpected email or text message that looks like it’s from a company you know or trust, like a bank or a credit card or utility company. Or maybe it’s from an online payment website or app. The message could be from a scammer, who might

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts — they haven’t
  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information — there isn’t
  • say you need to confirm some personal or financial information — you don’t
  • include an invoice you don’t recognize — it’s fake
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment — but the link has malware
  • say you’re eligible to register for a government refund — it’s a scam
  • offer a coupon for free stuff — it’s not real

About Online Threat Alerts (OTA)

Online Threat Alerts or OTA is an anti-cybercrime community that started in 2012. OTA alerts the public to cyber crimes and other web threats.

By alerting the public, we have prevented a lot of online users from getting scammed or becoming victims of cybercrimes.

With the ever-increasing number of people going online, it important to have a community like OTA that continuously alerts or protects those same people from cyber-criminals, scammers and hackers, who are every day finding new ways of carrying out their malicious activities.

Online users can help by reporting suspicious or malicious messages or websites to OTA. And, if they want to determine if a message or website is a threat or scam, they can use OTA's search engine to search for the website or parts of the message for information.

Help maintain Online Threat Alerts (OTA).

4 Google Scams to Avoid and Report