Google sues alleged puppy scammer after AARP tip

OAKLAND, Calif., April 11 (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday sued an alleged puppy scammer who used its services to sell fake pets, the first of what the company said was a number growing lawsuits for apparent misuse by its users.

Seniors advocacy group AARP notified Google of the scam last September following a complaint from a South Carolina resident who sent $700 in digital gift cards to an online seller for a puppy. basset hound who never came, according to Google’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Jose.

Google is seeking monetary damages and a court order restraining the accused user, Nche Noel of Cameroon. Noel did not respond to a request for comment via one of the many puppy websites named in the lawsuit, and an attorney was not immediately listed for Noel in the court filings.

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Noel used dozens of Gmail and Google Voice email accounts “to communicate false promises to victims, register the fraudulent websites with US internet hosting companies, and request and receive payments,” the lawsuit says.

In addition to basset hounds, allegedly Christmas-related websites offered maltipoo puppies and marijuana and prescription opiate cough syrup, the suit claims.

Google’s policies prohibit using its services for illegal activities. The lawsuit claims the puppy scam damaged Google’s reputation and cost it more than $75,000 to investigate and fix it.

The company said that while Noel is unlikely to appear in court, an order against Noel could disrupt the alleged scam and deter copycats.

Previously, Google referred a similar case to the US Department of Justice. This Cameroonian puppy scammer pleaded guilty last year.

Google has previously sued Russian-based hackers and marketing companies impersonating its name. But the company said it was the first time it had directly filed a consumer protection complaint before.

Google has timed its filing to coincide with National Pet Day.

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Reporting by Paresh Dave;
Edited by Sandra Maler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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