What Are Google Chat Scams? How Can You Spot Them? | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Online scams are common cyberattacks performed by not only criminals well-versed in hacking but also everyday people. Instead of executing their fraudulent acts on the more popular platforms, they may choose services rarely linked to scams like Google Chats.

More criminals are taking advantage of Google Chat’s reputation to extort victims. So how do these scams work? How can you spot them?

What Are Google Chat Scams?

Google Chat is a platform for people to discuss and collaborate, especially for work. Formerly known as Google Hangouts, it’s a secure space to engage with others without the distractions present on other social networks.

Google Chat scams, then, are the malicious activities hackers execute on the medium. Instead of sticking to legit communications, they lure victims into revealing their sensitive data through phishing or giving away money.

How Do Google Chat Scams Work?

Threat actors may begin their interaction with you on a different app. Once they get your attention, they request to move the conversation to Google Chat, claiming it’s more secure. Yes, it’s secure, but that’s a ruse on the criminal’s part. They’d rather be on Google Chat because it hasn’t been saturated with scammers like them yet.

In other instances, an intruder can contact you on Google Chat with an unprecedented chat request. You might accept out of curiosity.

Trust is a key factor in Google Chat scams. What criminals do depends on how much they can make you trust them. The idea is to warm up to you gradually until you relax your guard. When they sense that you are more receptive to them, they attack.

Types of Google Chat Scams

There are various types of Google Chat scams. Criminals choose the ones that best align with their motives.

Investment Scams

The cybercriminal wants you to invest in a supposed business opportunity with guaranteed high returns. They give you a breakdown of the business with claims of its profitability. It all looks convincing on paper, but in reality, there’s no business.

Some investment scammers on Google Chat don’t ask you to invest huge sums initially. They start with little amounts, and even give you returns for your investment to convince you to invest more. If you fall for it, they disappear with your money.

Romance Scams

Cybercriminals take advantage of the popularity of online dating to scam people on Google Chat. Having created an account with photos of someone attractive, they contact you and start to profess their underlying love immediately.

A romance scammer on Google Chat may even request your address and send you little presents. This is to make you feel they are legit and that they love you genuinely. When they see that you trust them, the criminal begins to make financial requests.

Job Scams

With high rates of unemployment, it’s no surprise that job scams are gaining momentum. A threat actor may randomly send you a job offer that’s hard to ignore. For a more favorable outcome, they retrieve details of people that applied for jobs on sites like LinkedIn.

Cybercriminals refer to a particular job you have applied for when they contact you on Google Chat, claiming to be a representative of the company. You may engage them out of excitement and fall for their tricks.

Giveaway Scams

In a giveaway scam, the actor uses a false identity to contact you about winning some money, product, or service. They create a fake corporate name that sounds legitimate just to get your attention.

Most giveaway scams are random. But if the criminal targets you in particular, they tailor the offering to you by ensuring that it’s something you need or are familiar with. They also ask for your personal information as a requirement for you to claim your supposed winnings.

How to Identify Google Chat Scams

Woman chatting on a smartphone outside

The different types of Google Chat scams typically have the same patterns. Here’s how to identify them.

They Are Out of the Blue

Cybercriminals establish first contact with their targets by sending them random messages. How you handle this message determines the course of their engagement with you. There’s a tendency for you to engage them out of curiosity, but it will only encourage them to push further.

They Are Too Good to Be True

Hackers send you a message with an incredible offer. Even when you feel like it’s too good to be true, you may be tempted to indulge them. This is most common with job and giveaway scams. It’s one thing to win a prize in a lottery or game you played. But if you didn’t partake in anything and receive a message with an enticing offer, don’t accept it without due diligence.

They Seek Financial Help or Commitments

A scammer on Google Chat can only pretend for so long. Eventually, they’ll ask for financial assistance. Criminals don’t always ask outright. There’s a backstory to justify their requests.

For instance, a romance scammer may ask you to loan them some money for a business investment and promise to refund you. They could also claim to be sick and need some money for medical treatment.

They Have a Sense of Urgency

The lifespan of online scams is relatively short (at least in general), so actors want to extort you as soon as possible before you figure them out. If they ask you for money or personal information, they do it with urgency. If it’s for an investment, they create a fear of missing out (FOMO), so you’ll be eager to oblige them.

They Are Intrusive

Some Google Chat scam actors look at the big picture. They want to retrieve sensitive information from you that they could use for various malicious purposes. You find them asking very personal questions that are unrelated to your interactions with them. If they become close to you, they’ll push their luck by asking for your banking information.

The criminal may choose to retrieve your data forcefully by sending you a malware-infected attachment or link. If you open it, the malware will grant them access to personal information.

How to Prevent Google Chat Scams

Man using an iphone smartphone

Being able to identify Google Chat scams means you can stop yourself falling for them. Here are some pointers.

Be Wary of Messages From Strangers

If you get a message from a strange username, have it at the back of your mind that they could be a scammer, regardless of what they say to you.

Perhaps you don’t want to make hasty decisions and write off all strangers, so verify their claims before engaging them. Don’t indulge anyone whose story doesn’t add up. A response from you fuels them.

Secure Your Personal Information

Your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) like your social security number (SSN), credit card details, and PIN are confidential. Only provide them on a need-to-know basis, even when you interact with people you know, let alone strangers.

There’s a limit to what a Google Chat scammer can do to you without having your details. If you must engage a stranger, be mindful of the information you reveal to them. They might just be gathering intel on you.

Don’t Send Money to Strangers

Cybercriminals fabricate the most believable stories to lure victims into sending funds to them. Make it a rule of thumb not to send money to strangers on Google Chat or any other platform. From asking you to invest in a lucrative business to needing money for a life-threatening crisis: it’s all a ploy to dupe you.

The moment the person you are talking to makes a financial request, you should know they’re scamming you. It doesn’t matter how little the request is. If you send a little amount to them, you have the potential to send a huge amount too.

Google Chat scammers don’t always ask you for things politely. They may be proactive by infecting your system with malware, so they can have unauthorized access to your accounts and exploit your data.

Don’t open attachments or links a stranger sends you. There’s a possibility that they have compromised it. Install antivirus software on your device to prevent contamination, should you engage with infected content.

Use Google Chat With Caution

Most of the people you meet online are strangers. Trusting them is risky as you can’t tell their true intentions. As you use Google Chat, see everyone as a suspect until they prove themselves innocent. It prevents you from falling prey to the scammers.

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National Cyber Security