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Avoid and report Google scams

By focusing on providing the best user experience possible, Google has earned a trusted brand name. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people sometimes try to use the Google brand to scam and defraud others. Here are a few common scams, and ways that you can avoid and report them.


Google Lotto scam

You receive an email claiming that you've won a Google Lottery and are asked for personal details.  In some cases the scammers also impersonate customs or tax officials and will ask you to provide additional information or pay a fee to release the funds (such as a money release fee, currency exchange, courier or shipping fees, tax fees, etc.).

Google doesn't run lotteries, and your email address hasn't been selected to win a prize. Do not reply back with your personal details.

If you’ve received a notification that you have won the Google lottery, please report it to us by completing this form.

Lotto Scam Notification Example:

Resources:

  • Report the email as spam or phishing to your email provider. If you have Gmail, learn how to report spam and report phishing.
  • If the email was sent from a Gmail address, you can report abuse to help Google take appropriate action on accounts involved in this scam.
  • Spam: The abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages.
  • Phishing: Phishing is a type of online fraud where someone tries to trick the victim into revealing sensitive details such as a username, password or credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Gmail Tech Support Scam 

“Help! I can’t remember my Gmail address. What was my password anyway?”

Looking for Gmail Tech Support?  The official way to obtain support for Gmail is through Gmail’s help center site. Be aware of third-party websites that claim to offer technical support for Gmail and other Google products.

These contacts and their websites have no affiliation to Google and may claim to provide password reset assistance as well as other Gmail related support services.  In addition, these sites may require the submission of payment for their support services.  Google does not charge users to recover their account credentials or change their password.

In other cases, these websites may call you and claim that your Google Account was hijacked or that your computer has a virus or other malware on it.  Google does not provide phone based support for Gmail and these calls are not affiliated with Google.

These contacts may deceive you into providing your username and password (account credentials) which may result in your account being compromised and “unlocked” for a fee.  Do not provide your account credentials to anyone purporting to be from Google.  

If you've already encountered a Gmail Tech Support Scam, and or have sent a payment, you can report the scam to the appropriate authorities.  We also encourage you to report the scam to us by completing this form.  

If the correspondence you received came from a Gmail address, you can report the Gmail account to help Google take appropriate action on accounts involved in this scam.

 

Google Wallet vehicle purchase scam

You find a cheap car online, and the seller claims that for your protection the purchase will be completed via Google Wallet. The car price is "too good to be true" and the seller claims a need to sell the car quickly because he or she is moving, moving out of the country, being called for military service, getting a divorce, etc. The reality is that there is no car, and you won’t be using Google Wallet. Instead, the seller will send you an invoice that appears to be from Google Wallet, but will instruct you to make the payment via Western Union, MoneyGram or bank transfer.

A legitimate Google Wallet transaction will require that you sign in to your Google Account and execute the payment using the Google Wallet interface. Google Wallet does not accept wire transfers/bank transfers or payments via Western Union/MoneyGram, nor does it use any escrow type of payment.

Google Wallet used to be called Google Checkout, and some scammers still use the Checkout logo and trademarks in their emails and other communications.

Resources:

  • Read more about the Google vehicle purchase scam.
  • If you think you've encountered a scam involving a fraudulent Google Wallet transaction, complete this form to provide information to Google. The information you provide us with may be used to further investigate this matter in aggregate, and may be shared with the appropriate authorities as part of our effort to shut down these types of operations.
  • If you received the email from a Gmail address, you can report abuse to help Google take appropriate action on accounts involved in this scam.

Google Job Offer Scam

This type of scam operates by telling people they have been given a job with Google or another company.  However, you have to pay a training fee (or some other type of fee) before you can start. In addition, you are asked to complete employment forms requiring that you provide your personal identifying information.  The scam artist may even insist on conducting an “interview” through Google Hangouts.


In reality, you have not been given a job with Google, but rather you may have been tricked into sending money to a scam artist.


Resources:

Read more about work-from-home scams at fbi.gov.
Learn more about real Google jobs at www.google.com/about/careers.

If you think you have been contacted as part of a Google Job Offer Scam, we encourage you to report it to us by completing this form.

 

Google Account Recovery Scam via SMS Messages

If you receive a text message claiming your Google Account has been compromised, use a computer to go to Google Account Security settings and review your recent activity to make sure no one unauthorized has accessed your account. Do not respond to unsolicited text messages with personal information. Also, beware of messages that claim Google needs to call you to verify your identity. Google will not send you a text message that asks you to respond by text or phone call to verify your identity if your account has been compromised. Here's an example of what a scam message might say:

  • Google Message #42132: Your Gmail has been compromised by hackers. Google needs to call you to verify your identity. Text back with 'READY' when you are ready to recieve this call.

If you receive a message similar to the one above, do not respond. Instead, forward the message to your cell phone carrier’s SMS spam reporting number. For most carriers, this number is 7726.

Also, Google Voice allows you to mark messages as spam so that future messages from that number will automatically be considered spam and you won't receive any notifications about it.

Resources:

Google top placement/SEO scam

Google never guarantees top placement in search results or AdWords. Beware of any company making these types of promises.

Resources:

Google Maps/SEO fake invoices

Google does not charge for inclusion in Google Maps. Be wary of invoices for services received -- especially if nobody in the business remembers purchasing those services. Make sure to perform due diligence on any financial transaction.

Resources:

Learn how to add or claim your business on Google Maps at Google My Business.

Google telemarketing calls

Watch out for parties calling and selling services claiming to have a special relationship with or claiming to be Google. Often, these parties are telemarketers that are not affiliated with Google and are trying to leverage the Google brand to sell your business some type of online service. Keep in the mind the following:

  • Google does not place robocalls.
  • Google does not call to "update your front page listing" or ask you to "claim your free website."
  • Google does not charge for inclusion in Google Search or Google My Business.

Resources:

If you are continually being contacted by a telemarketer claiming these things and are on the do not call list, you can file a complaint at the National Do Not Call Registry.

Google/Zagat job scam

This type of scam operates by telling people they have been given a job with Google/Zagat. However, they have to pay a training fee (or some other type of fee) before they can start. In reality, they have not been given a job with Google, but rather they've been tricked into sending money to a scam artist.

Resources:

Gmail update phishing

Many phishers actively target Gmail users and attempt to steal their credentials. Phishers will often say that you need to update your Gmail account information or your account will be suspended. The link provided in the email will appear to be https://accounts.google.com, but in reality the link will take the user to a site controlled by the phisher. Beware of these types of emails, and always double check that the URL in the address is what you expect before entering personal information or passwords.

Resources:

  • Learn some steps to help you determine whether a message is phishing.
  • If you have Gmail, consider turning on two-step verification to add an extra layer of security to your Google Account.
  • If you received the phishing email from a Gmail address, you can report abuse to help Google take appropriate action on accounts involved in this scam.
  • Spam: The abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages.
  • Phishing: Phishing is a type of online fraud where someone tries to trick the victim into revealing sensitive details such as a username, password or credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Google AdSense Scam

If you've received an unsolicited phone call or e-mail from someone claiming to work for Google's AdSense team asking for money, you may have been affected by a scam. The person will tell you that you have a balance sitting in a Google AdSense account that is refundable to you, but you must pay a security deposit in order to release the funds. You'll then be given an address where you should mail the security deposit in the form of a certified check in order to receive your refund.

The reality is, Google AdSense does not require payment in order to release funds owed to you and there is no fee to use our AdSense service. You can check the Reports and Payments pages to view your current AdSense account balance.

If you've already sent a payment and think you have been scammed, you can report the scam to the appropriate authorities.

If the correspondence you received came from a Gmail address, you can report the Gmail account to help Google take appropriate action on accounts involved in this scam.


Tax Payment Scam

You receive an unsolicited email or phone call purporting to be from the IRS or another tax authority.  The IRS official instructs you to pay your tax debt using Google Play cards immediately or you will be arrested, deported or your license will be revoked.  This is an IRS Scam.


Phishing and Online IRS Scams

The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.


What is Phishing?

Phishing is a scam typically carried out through unsolicited email and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information.
Report all unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS-related function to phishing@irs.gov. If you've experienced any monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident, please report it to the Treasury Inspector General Administration (TIGTA) and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their Complaint Assistant to make the information available to investigators.


If the spam came from a Gmail account, you can report spam and phishing to us.  


IRS Telephone Scam

You are contacted by phone and told that you owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If you refuse to cooperate, you may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.


The IRS does not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.  The first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail.


Other characteristics of this scam include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.


If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

 

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.


Additional information regarding IRS scams can be found on the IRS website.


If you have encountered an IRS online or phone scam, and the scammer used any Google services to facilitate the scam (Gmail, Google Payments, Google Play Cards, etc…) we encourage you to report the scam to us by completing this form.
 

Blackmail and Extortion

Were you the victim of a sexual extortion scam?  “Sextortion” is a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors or payment from the victim.  Social media and text messages are often the source of the sexual material and the threatened means of sharing it with others.


For example, you may have become Facebook “friends” or connected through other social media sites with someone who asked you to arrange a webcam chat session.  During the session, they showed you a (pre-recorded-unbeknownst to you) video of themselves disrobing and asked you to do the same or more.  


The individual recorded your webcam session.  They contact you with a link to the video and instruct you to pay a fee or the video will be made public and distributed to contacts on your social network sites.  


If you are the victim of a sextortion scam where Google services (YouTube, Google Payments, Google Play Cards, etc…) were used to facilitate the scam, report the scam to the authorities and we also encourage you to report the scam to us by completing this form.


If someone has posted your personal information or uploaded a video of you without your consent, you can request removal of content based on our Privacy Guidelines.  You may also report videos that contain inappropriate content by flagging the video.

Additional resources for victims of sextortion are available.
 

I’ve been scammed. What should I do?

You may wish to file a report with the appropriate authorities and/or your regional fraud reporting center — such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov)

You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact.shtm, call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to the following address:
Federal Trade Commission
CRC-240
Washington, D.C. 20580

If your complaint is against a company in a country other than the United States, you can file it at http://www.econsumer.gov. You can also find information on where to report in locations outside the United States at econsumer.gov.

I’ve noticed the Google trademark used incorrectly. How can I report it?

You can report incorrect use of the Google Trademark.

General tips for staying safe online

Get tips and advice for staying more secure on the web and an overview of some of the security tools that Google offers.

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