Google will sue the scammer who ran a non-delivery scam. The peculiarity of that case is that multiple victims from the US were tricked into buying puppies that actually never existed. This scam got the name of a puppy fraud.
Puppies that have never arrived
Google says the victims of such a puppy fraud became mainly older Americans who in general are more vulnerable to different kinds of cyber attacks.
“The actor used a network of fraudulent websites that claimed to sell basset hound puppies — with alluring photos and fake customer testimonials — in order to take advantage of people during the pandemic,” Google’s CyberCrime Investigation Group manager Albert Shin and senior counsel Mike Trinh said.
The puppy fraud scheme involved Gmail accounts, Google Voice phone numbers and a network of rogue websites. The scammer also ran a Google Ads campaign to make the fraudulent websites appear on top of search results pages.
In what Google described as part of “multiple international non-delivery scams.” people paid thousands of dollars online for ” adorable puppies” that have never actually arrived.
The company’s first consumer protection lawsuit
On the fourth of April Google filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Jose claiming that Nche Noel Ntse from Cameroon conducted fraud using the company’s products including advertisements, Google Voice numbers and Gmail accounts. According to court documents, the man ran websites where he put beautiful pictures of purebred puppies along with happy and satisfactory reviews from “supposed” customers.
The scheme exploited the high demand of puppies in the United States during the corona pandemic.
Company spent more than $75,000 to investigate the case and also to remediate its consequences. Mr. Ntse will be sued for financial damage, causing damage to the company’s reputation and citing harm to the company’s relationship with its users. Google also estimated that on the whole victims lost more than $1 million in the fraud.
Online shopping scams rose significantly during the corona pandemic
According to data from the Federal Trade Commission, last year consumers reported to lose more than $5.8 billion to fraud. It’s an increase of more than 70 percent compared to 2020 year. According to the Better Business Bureau, online shopping scams in particular rose because of the pandemic. The group estimates that in 2021 pet-related fraud made up 35% of reported cases.
People don’t usually expect a criminal when they want to buy a puppy on the other side of the website. But scammers who often are located outside the US show themselves quite inventive.
They post photos and videos of imaginary puppies or other animals at low prices requesting to pay upfront. Sometimes scammers will try to snatch additional sums of money adding to the cost of “the delivery expenses” or “animal quarantine”. Such schemes literally “exploded” in the past two years as scammers try to monetize people’s loneliness and their inability currently to travel and see a puppy. Paul Brady from PetScams.com, recollects an incident of a woman spending $25,000 on an imaginary Pomeranian puppy. Paul Brady’s organization tracks all sites that claim to sell animals and detects those scammers.
Online shopping scams statistics
Around September 2021, AARP, an advocacy group for older Americans made a report of abuse about Mr. Ntse’s activities to Google. According to the received report, a person who lives in South Carolina wanted to buy a dog. They came across Mr. Ntse’s website and contacted him by email.
In the course of active correspondence via email and text the person sent him $700 in electronic gift cards. But later no puppy was delivered. Such cases as this one mentioned has become particularly in recent pandemic years more often to be happening. Everything connected to shopping went massively online and so the percentage of online shopping scams rose as well. And according to an article published at review42.com the statistics for e-commerce fraud can be the next:
- Statistics show that the most likely victims of e-commerce fraud are people aged between 25 and 34;
- In 2018, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) registered 1.4 million reports connected with fraud – an increase compared to 2017;
- Only from three month period – January to March 2019, 5,305 ecommerce fraud reports were made in US;
- In 2017, 92% of fraudulent online transactions involved credit card;
- For every $1 from a chargeback e-commerce businesses lose $3.94;
- In the US, billing fraud makes up for the increase of 34% and shipping fraud — by 37%;
- Big holidays turn out to be the prime time for the scammers and fraudsters. In 2019 in the first 20 days of November officials registered over 60,000 potential scams that targeted 26 popular brands;
- Specialists predict that by the 2023 Card-Not-Present fraud will increase by 14%;
- In 2021, the global e-commerce market become worth of $4.9 trillion.
Stats can be impressive, right? In the wake of online shopping becoming the norm, as a consumer, firstly you should take responsibility for your safety and security. For it can be unknown when some fraudster behind the screen will try to catch you.
How to avoid e-commerce scams and frauds?
Do safety checks. Google, and the overall sense of prudence advice is to have a double check-up once you have doubts about a deal. Talking about how to avoid puppy fraud the first thing obvious to do would be to try to see the pet in person or via video call before you make any payment.
Use verified payment methods instead of paying via prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Do a reverse image check to see if it’s a stock image or a stolen photo. Try to verify the authenticity of the seller.