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What are Google chat scams, and how to stay away from them

Cristina POPOV

April 26, 2024

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What are Google chat scams, and how to stay away from them

Google Chat is a messaging application that allows businesses and individuals to collaborate and stay connected. Formerly known as "Google Hangouts," this app has over 10 million downloads on Google Play alone, making it a popular choice. However, its widespread adoption has also made it an attractive target for cybercriminals who aim to exploit unsuspecting users.

Scammers are drawn to this platform for various reasons. Firstly, the Google brand is trusted by many, which makes it easier for fraudsters to gain people's trust. Secondly, the vast user base provides them with ample opportunities to reach out to potential victims. Thirdly, creating anonymous accounts is straightforward, and finally, the seamless file-sharing capabilities make it easy to distribute malicious content.

Scammers use various tactics to lure their victims on Google Chat. Sometimes, they initiate contact through other channels like social media before moving the conversation to Google Chat. In other cases, they cast a wide net by sending unsolicited messages, hoping to pique the recipient's curiosity.

However, these scams are tailored to the platform, making them harder to spot. In this article, we will discuss the most common Google Chat scams and provide you with the knowledge and tools to navigate this digital landscape safely.

Understand Google Chat Scams to stay away from them

Google Chat scams tend to mirror cons spotted on other sites like LinkedIn due to the platform's professional clientele.

Here are some common types of Google Chat scams:

1.    Phishing Scams. In this scam, cybercriminals send messages pretending to be from legitimate organizations like banks or trusted companies. They often include malicious links that seem genuine but are designed to steal your login credentials or financial information when clicked.

Example: You receive a message appearing to be from your bank, with a link to a login page. However, upon closer inspection, the link leads to a fraudulent website that captures your username and password.

Related: The 7 most common WhatsApp scams and how to avoid them

2.    Cryptocurrency and Investment Scams. These scams involve promises of lucrative investment opportunities or get-rich-quick schemes related to cryptocurrencies or other financial products. The scammers use high-pressure tactics and make unrealistic claims to lure you into investing your money.

Example: A scammer contacts you on Google Chat, posing as a successful investor. They offer you a "special" opportunity to invest in a new cryptocurrency with guaranteed high returns. However, it's a ploy to steal your money.

3.    Fake Job Offers. In this scam, cybercriminals exploit job seekers by offering non-existent job opportunities. They may ask for personal information or request upfront fees, claiming it's part of the application process.

Example: A scammer finds your information on LinkedIn, reaches out to you, and then moves the conversation to Google Chat, claiming to be a recruiter from a reputable company. They set up an "interview," offer you a dream job but request sensitive personal details or an upfront payment for training or equipment.

4. Giveaways and prize scams. Scammers often make false promises of free products, services, or winnings through giveaways or contests. These can include prizes such as money, a car, a laptop, or free services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. However, the catch is that to claim your "prize," you must provide personal information or pay a fee. The scam can take many forms, but two commonly used ones on the Google platform are the Google Lotto and Google Pop-up scams. Both types of fraud target Google users and ask them to complete a survey or enter personal information to claim their winnings.

Example: You receive a message claiming you've won a valuable prize from a well-known company. To claim your winnings, you're asked to provide financial information or pay a processing fee.

5.    Tech Support Scams. Scammers impersonate legitimate tech support agents and claim an issue with your device or account requires immediate attention. They may ask you to install malware-laced software or provide remote access to your computer.

Example: A scammer contacts you on Google Chat, claiming to be from a reputable tech company. They say they've detected a problem with your computer and request that you install "security software" or provide remote access, which is actually malware.

Related: How To Spot and Avoid Tech Support Scams

6.    Romance Scams. Scammers build fake relationships with their targets, often starting on dating sites or social media before moving to Google Chat. Once they've gained your trust and affection, they attempt to exploit you financially or emotionally.

Example: You meet someone on a dating app, and after developing a romantic connection, they suggest moving the conversation to Google Chat. Over time, they start asking for money, gifts, or sensitive personal information, taking advantage of your emotional attachment.

10 signs you are messaging with a scammer on Google Chat

1. Unsolicited Messages: If you receive a message out of the blue from someone you don't know, offering something too good to be true, such as a lucrative investment opportunity or a prize, it's likely a scam.

2. Requests for Personal Information: If the person you're chatting with starts asking for excessive personal information, such as your address, financial details, or login credentials, it's a red flag.

3. Sense of Urgency: Scammers often create a sense of urgency or time pressure, urging you to make decisions quickly without thinking them through.

4. Emotional Manipulation: Be wary of individuals who try to play on your emotions, such as expressing love or sympathy to gain your trust and affection, particularly if you've only recently connected with them.

5. Inconsistent Stories: If the person's story or details about their situation seem inconsistent or don't add up, it could be a sign of a scam.

6. Requests for Money or Gifts: If someone you've only recently met on Google Chat asks for money, gifts, or financial assistance, it's a warning sign of a potential scam.

7. Inability to Video Chat: Scammers avoid video or voice calls, as it makes it easier for them to hide their true identity and maintain their deception.

8. Promises of Easy Money: Be cautious of promises of high-paying jobs with minimal effort or investment opportunities with guaranteed returns, as these are common tactics used by scammers.

9. Their profiles are perfect: If someone's online profile or photos seem too perfect or their interests align suspiciously well with yours, it could be a case of "catfishing" or using a fake identity.

10. Suspicious Links or Attachments: Never click on links or download attachments from unknown or untrusted sources, as they may contain malware or lead to phishing sites designed to steal your personal information.

How to stay away from Google Chat scams

1. Be wary of unsolicited messages: If you receive a message from an unknown sender or a suspicious source, be cautious and verify the sender's identity before engaging with them.

2. Never share sensitive information: Legitimate organizations will never ask you to share sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial details, over chat or through unsecured links.

3. Don't click on suspicious links or attachments: If a message contains a link or attachment that seems out of place or suspicious, do not click on it. It could be a phishing attempt or contain malware.

4. Verify the legitimacy of investment opportunities: If you receive an unsolicited investment opportunity, thoroughly research the company and the offer before committing any funds.

5. Don’t respond to urgent requests: Scammers often create a sense of urgency to pressure you into taking action without thinking. If someone claims to be in an emergency and asks for money or personal information, verify their identity through other channels before responding.

6. Keep your devices and software up-to-date: Ensure that your devices and software, including your chat applications, are updated with the latest security patches to protect against known vulnerabilities.

7. Never send money or gift cards to people you don't know: Scammers often request money transfers or gift cards as a form of untraceable payment. Avoid sending any funds to individuals you've only met online and cannot verify their identity.

8. Use Scamio, our powerful scam detector to uncover fraudsters.

Here's how to do it:

a. Copy the message, link, photo, proposal, or QR code you receive on Google Chat and send it to Scamio, on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or web browser.

b. Scamio will analyze the data and tell you if anyone is trying to scam you.

c. If yes, immediately cease all communication and do not share any more information with them.


Can you get scammed on Google Chat?

Unfortunately, it is possible to get scammed on Google Chat, just like on any other messaging or communication platform. While Google Chat is a legitimate and widely used service, scammers can exploit it to deceive and defraud unsuspecting users.

Are there any specific types of users or professions that are more targeted by Google Chat scammers?

While anyone can be a potential target, scammers may specifically target job seekers, entrepreneurs, or those in the finance or tech sectors with tailored scams.

What should I do if I accidentally click on a suspicious link or attachment from a Google Chat scammer?

If you suspect you've interacted with malicious content from a scammer, immediately run a full antivirus scan. Reset any passwords that may have been compromised, and report the incident to Google and relevant authorities.



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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