On Monday Google sued a scammer for allegedly running an online “puppy fraud scheme” defrauding vulnerable people, including the elderly, thousands of dollars with false promises of purebred puppies.
The complaint, filed Monday, accuses Cameroonian Nche Noel of using a network of fake websites, Google Voice phone numbers and Gmail accounts to pretend to sell purebred basset hound puppies to people online. In one case, a victim paid Noel $700 in “electronic gift cards” to buy a puppy. After sending the gift cards, Noel continued to string the victim on, telling them that the delivery company needed another $1,500. According to the complaint, the puppy never gained weight.
“The actor used a network of fraudulent websites claiming to sell basset hound puppies — with tantalizing photos and fake customer testimonials — to take advantage of people during the pandemic,” wrote Mike Trinh, Google’s senior counsel. in a Monday blog post† “Unfortunately, this scam has disproportionately targeted older Americans, who may be more vulnerable to cyberattacks.”
In addition to using Google’s services to communicate with victims, Google accused Noel of running a Google Ads campaign to promote the fraudulent websites.
In the complaint, Google says the AARP, a senior citizens’ group, notified the company of the scam last September. Later, in November, the AARP released a report detailing the puppy fraud scams, writing that criminals used isolated 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 warnings and called on more than 350 companies to remove misleading claims from the internet.
Google’s lawsuit alleges that Noel violated the company’s terms of service when conducting the alleged scam. Google demands legal compensation for damage.