Google sues alleged scam site operator who ran fake Basset Hound puppy factory
Google announced Monday that it has filed a lawsuit against a person accused of using a network of fake Google websites and products to market a fraudulent basset hound puppy business targeting seniors.
Albert Shin, Director of Google’s Cybercrime Investigative Group, and Mike Trinh, Senior Counsel said in a blog post that the alleged culprit – named Nche Noel Ntse in the lawsuit – “used a network of fraudulent websites that claimed to sell basset hound puppies – complete with seductive photos and false customer testimonials – in order to take advantage of people during the pandemic” .
The lawsuit states that Ntse is based in Cameroon and “operates several non-delivery websites that deceive and defraud Internet users in the United States”.
“Some of these scam websites claim to be selling adorable puppies, and victims are tricked into believing the websites are legit because of their alluring photos of purebred puppies and compelling testimonials from supposedly satisfied customers,” explained Google.
“But Defendant does not actually sell puppies, and instead runs several international non-delivery scams in an effort to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting high demand for puppies in the United States”
According to Google, Ntse violated their terms of service by using Gmail, Google Voice and several other Google services to perpetrate the scam through dozens of fraudulent Google accounts.
The tech giant said it spent more than $75,000 investigating the Ntse scam and was initially notified by the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
AARP said a South Carolina-based victim visited with family.[.]com before contacting [email protected][.]com.
Ntse reportedly asked for $700 in gift cards before asking for another $1,500 to deliver the pup. The victim paid but never received the puppy.
Google was eventually able to link the email address to a network of accounts linked to Ntse and his Cameroonian phone number. Google even found several Google Ads accounts that ran campaigns promoting fraudulent websites.
Google said it was seeking Ntse to pay damages and be barred from using its products.
“The Better Business Bureau recently announcement that pet scams now account for 35% of all online shopping scams reported to them, and this particular scam targeted the most vulnerable people, just as the pandemic has led to a record increase in the number of people wanting owning pets,” Shin and Trinh wrote, noting that according to Google Search Trends, searches for “Adopt a dog” increased early in the pandemic as people spent more time at home.
“That’s why we’re taking proactive steps to set legal precedent, protect victims, disrupt the scammer’s infrastructure, and raise public awareness. Of course, legal action is only one way through which we work to combat these types of scams.”
They added that their cybercrime investigative group routinely investigates a variety of scams and refers some cases to the Department of Justice and other agencies.
Google suggested people see a pet in person before sending money. They should also check payment methods, reverse search for pet images, and do a thorough online search of the seller. They noted that if no search results appear, the name and address “are probably wrong.”