A man used dozens of fake Google accounts to perpetrate a puppy scam in the US.
The fraudulent scheme targeted vulnerable older people in need of a pet.
Google has filed a lawsuit against him, alleging a violation of its terms of service.
Google is suing (h/t Gizmodo) a Cameroonian man for perpetrating an evil puppy fraud using its products and services.
The accused Nche Noel Ntse apparently ran multiple fake websites that purported to sell adorable purebred puppies to vulnerable people in the United States. The victims were primarily elderly folk who believed that the websites were legitimate because of photos of cute puppers and fake testimonials from supposedly satisfied customers.
Google alleges that Ntse used several of its services, including Gmail and Google Voice, via dozens of fake Google accounts to communicate false promises of delivering basset hounds to people. He even received payments from the victims and didn’t deliver any puppies in return. The company calls it a violation of its terms of service.
Google’s lawsuit also says that Ntse’s illegal activities caused it financial harm, “including by interfering with Google’s relationships with its users (and potential users), harming Google’s reputation, and forcing Google to expend substantial resources in excess of $75,000 to investigate and remediate defendant’s harmful activities.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t a lone incident, as Google notes in a blog post. According to The Better Business Bureau, pet scams make up 35% of all online shopping scams reported to them. The FTC and FBI also note that such scams wipe off an estimated $650 million per year from older people.
This particular scam targeted people wanting a pet to offset loneliness during the pandemic. According to Google Search Trends, searches for “Adopt a Dog” ballooned at the start of the pandemic, and by the end of 2020, 70% of Americans reported owning a pet.
If you are looking for pets online, Google recommends you see the pet in person or on a video call and use verified payment methods instead of wiring money or paying with gift cards. You should also perform a reverse image search to see if someone is fooling you with a stock image. A thorough online search of the seller can also bring up red flags if you can’t find their company name or address in multiple results.