On Monday, Google sued a scam artist for allegedly running an online “puppy fraud scheme”, defrauding vulnerable people, including seniors, out of thousands of dollars with false promises of pedigree puppies.
The lawsuit, filed on Monday, accuses Nche Noel of Cameroon of using a network of fake websites, Google Voice phone numbers and Gmail accounts to claim to sell purebred basset hound puppies to people online. In one case, a victim paid Noel $700 in “e-gift cards” to purchase a puppy. After sending the gift cards, Noel continued to chain ties with the victim, telling them that the delivery company needed an additional $1,500. According to the complaint, the puppy never arrived.
“The actor used a network of fraudulent websites that claimed to sell basset hound puppies — complete with seductive photos and fake customer testimonials — to take advantage of people during the pandemic,” Google senior attorney Mike Trinh wrote. . in a Monday blog post. “Unfortunately, this scam has disproportionately targeted older Americans, who may be more vulnerable to cyberattacks. »
Beyond using Google’s services to communicate with victims, Google accused Noel of running a Google Ads campaign to promote fraudulent websites.
In the complaint, Google says AARP, a senior citizens’ issues group, alerted the company to the scam last September. Later in November, AARP released a report detailing puppy scams, writing that criminals were exploiting lone consumers seeking companionship during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Online scams skyrocketed during the pandemic as people spent more time on social media. Last April, the Federal Trade Commission reported that it had issued more than 100 alerts and called on more than 350 companies to remove misleading claims from the Internet.
Google’s lawsuit claims that Noel violated the company’s terms of service by carrying out the alleged scam. Google seeks legal redress for the damages.