Google is taking legal action against someone it says used a network of fraudulent websites that claimed to sell basset hound puppies, along with “seductive photos and fake customer testimonials” to take advantage of people for a while. the pandemic.
Google has taken legal action against the Cameroonian man for allegedly operating a ‘puppy fraud scheme’
According to Google, Nche Noel Ntse, who Google says resides in Cameroon, allegedly ran several websites claiming to sell cute puppies but failed to deliver them, according to court filings obtained by The Verge.
Google sued because it was “an effective tool for setting legal precedent, disrupting the tools used by scammers, and increasing consequences for bad actors,” said Albert Shin, head of the Google’s cybercrime investigative group, and Mike Trinh, a senior attorney.
The main legal complaint is that Ntse violated its contract with Google by violating its terms of service. It used Gmail and Google Voice to communicate with victims and register fraudulent websites with US-based hosting companies, and to request and receive payments, according to Google’s complaint.
Google claims Ntse’s alleged activities caused financial harm to Google by interfering with Google’s relationship with its users, damaging its reputation, and causing it to spend more than $75,000 on investigations.
“Defendant’s abusive and malicious fictional pet adoption programs misuse Google products to prey on vulnerable victims during an unprecedented pandemic,” the complaint states.
Google pointed to data from the Better Business Bureau which said pet scams now account for 35% of all online shopping scams reported to them, often targeting the most vulnerable people as the pandemic has led to a record increase in the number of people wanting to own pets.
Google argues that the lawsuit, filed in the Northern District Court in San Jose, California, is the right instance because the defendant agreed to Google’s terms of service and used California-based hosting service Dynadot. for puppy fraud website.
AARP, a nonprofit seniors advocacy service, notified Google of the puppy scam in September 2021. Victims sent the $700 in e-gift cards after discussing a puppy purchase through Gmail account and Google Voice number but got nothing in return.
After removing the fraudulent website, Google also discovered that the same person was using Google Ads to run campaigns promoting this and other domains. Google says it has suspended ads related to this Ads account. He said sites and others that are still operational “pose an immediate risk of harm to Google and the public.”
The company is seeking damages, court costs and an injunction preventing the man from using its services.
To avoid falling into the trap of a puppy scam yourself, Google recommends:
- See the pet in person (or on a video call) before you pay. “More often than not, scammers don’t comply with the request,” Google said.
- Use verified payment methods. Avoid transferring money or paying with gift cards or prepaid debit cards, Google notes.
- Reverse Image Search. Do a search to see if the item or product is a stock image or a stolen photo.
- Search the seller online. Ask for the business name, number and address, and see what search results come up.