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Google Chat, the instant messaging platform developed by Google, allows users to communicate in real time via message. With over 10 million downloads in the Google Play store alone, Google Chat is a prime hangout for people to send direct messages, hold group chats, share files, and more. Unfortunately, like many free messaging platforms, Google Chat is a hot spot for scammers.
But not all scams start on Google Chat. Some romance scams, for example, start on other platforms. A romance scammer may engage with you online through dating apps or social media sites and then move the conversation to Google Chat to avoid being reported. Through Chat, imposters and faux beaus alike can employ phishing tactics to get you to reveal personal details or financial information.
Online scams have many similar characteristics, including unsolicited messages, a sense of urgency, and offers that sound too good to be true. In this article, we walk you through the red flags of Google Chat scams and offer tips to protect yourself, like why use identity theft protection services.
Is Google Chat safe to use?
10 tips to stay safe from Google Chat scams
What to do if someone scams you on Google Chat
Google Chat scams FAQs
Popular Google Chat scams
From romance scams to job offer scams, investment scams, or fake giveaways, phishing attacks are a common Google Chat scam technique. A phishing scam is a type of cyberattack that uses deceptive tactics to coerce you to hand over sensitive, private information, usually bank account details or personally identifiable information. Phishing can occur anywhere online, from emails to direct social media messages.
Scammers are always coming up with new strategies to trick users, but being aware of trending scams can help you safeguard yourself. Watch out for these Google Chat scams as you navigate the messaging platform:
Sextortion scams are blackmail that occur when hackers obtain private or sensitive material, like private pictures or messages. With this potentially damaging or embarrassing material, the scammers ask for money or information and threaten to disseminate the content they have.
Romance scammers use fake profiles on dating sites or social media platforms to attract new love interests. Once these social catfish have you hooked, they move the conversation to Google Chat. After they establish a relationship, they eventually request gifts or fabricate elaborate stories and request financial help. If your romantic love interest is never available to video chat or call, it could be because they’re conducting a dating scam.
Job offer or job interview scams
Scammers place ads for fake job applications or interview opportunities touting more money, more flexible work hours, or a remote (work from home) position — all that will supposedly take very little time or effort. Instead of making money, you may end up paying money upfront for “starter kits,” or they could invite you to apply, storing your personal information for identity theft.
If you’ve ever been contacted by someone who “made millions” by smart investing in a trending market like real estate or cryptocurrency, you may have been contacted by an investment scammer. Similar to a job offer scam, this type of scam involves an ad claiming to help you make a lot of money quickly with little or no effort. As with any scam, they’re looking to obtain personally identifiable information or your money.
In this Google Chat scam, you may receive a message claiming you’re the lucky winner of a giveaway. The scammer requests your personal information to verify your identity or demands you send money to claim your prize. Use critical thinking when someone messages you about a giveaway or sweepstakes you didn’t enter.
Technical support scam
In this impersonation scam, the criminal pretends to be part of Google Chat’s technical support. They may ask for account information or personal information, all for “verification.” But in reality, they’re cybercriminals pocketing your information and looking to steal your identity.
Google impersonator scams
Google Chat is a convenient place for teams to collaborate, but that also opens up users to new scams. Google impersonation scams involve criminals claiming to be from Google Ads, AdSense, or Google’s SEO team. They may inform you of a change in billing for payments and direct you to reinput your account information. Or, they may say there is a balance due to you, but you must pay a deposit to release the funds.
Similarly, if you receive a message from Google’s SEO team guaranteeing top advertising placement, exercise caution. It’s most likely a scam, as Google never guarantees top advertising placement.
Google membership rewards scam
This scam is a play on the giveaway scam, where scammers message users through Google Chat, claiming they’re the lucky winners of a payout, product, or Google service. The scammer may then ask you to complete a survey or fill out personal information to claim the prize. Instead of receiving your prize, your information is now in the hands of a cybercriminal.
Is Google Chat safe to use?
That depends on your definition of safe. There are inherent risks when chatting with strangers on the internet, and Google Chat’s security measures aren’t the strongest. Google doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption and can access all of Google Chats. Additionally, accounts can be reached by anyone with a Google account, so anyone with a Gmail address is susceptible to unsolicited messages, including messages from scammers.
Another potentially troubling aspect of Google Chat is the synchronicity of all Google programs. Google Chat is also part of the Google Workspace, which houses productivity tools like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and more. That works well when you’re chatting with team members and sharing files and documents, but if someone is able to hack into your Google Chat, they could also have access to all of your other files.
While there are risks to using Google Chat, Google employs some security measures to safeguard users. Within the platform, there are Google alerts about suspicious messages used to steal personal information. In addition to the built-in alerts provided by Google, there are other ways to protect yourself from scams.
10 tips to stay safe from Google Chat scams
Google Chat may be a newer messaging platform, but the tactics employed by scammers are not new. In general, they follow the same phishing techniques as WhatsApp scams or other messaging app scams.
Following these tips can help keep you safe online and protect your identity from fraud.
1. Don’t click suspicious links
As a general rule of thumb, you should only open links from people you know and trust. If a link has typos, lots of symbols, or random characters, don’t click on it. Opening an infected link could install malware on your device.
2. Enable two-factor authentication
Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication for an added layer of security and online protection beyond just a username and a password. If your password was compromised, the attacker would still need the second factor, limiting their access to your account.
3. Invest in identity theft protection
Identity theft protection can help safeguard you from identity theft by monitoring your personal information across the web and flagging any unusual activity on your bank accounts, credit cards, and credit reports. In the event you experience identity theft, these services can also recover your identity.
4. Adjust your privacy settings
Updating your privacy settings is key to staying safe online. When you adjust your settings, you control who sees your profile information and can prevent unauthorized people from viewing or interacting with your personal information.
5. Always verify the identity of the person or organization
If you receive a message from something claiming to be from a particular organization, do your due diligence. Ask identifying questions if they insist they are a loved one. If they allege to be from an organization, check the email closely. Google the organization to see if the patterns of the email match.
6. Be wary of urgent messaging and other high-pressure tactics
The pressure to “act now” is one of the biggest red flags of any scam. Many scammers prey on emotions or feelings of urgency to get their victims to hand over money or information without looking into it. If anyone tries to pressure you to act quickly, be wary.
7. Be skeptical about offers that seem too good to be true
It’s an old adage that has stuck around for a reason: If something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. It’s unlikely you won a giveaway you didn’t enter, hit the lottery, or were randomly selected to win a big prize. More likely, the offers are scams, attempting to hit the jackpot with your personal information or credit card details.
8. Don’t disclose personal information
Never hand over personal information to anyone you don’t know on the internet — including potential love interests or anyone claiming to be a friend or family member. Scammers can actually use innocuous personal info like your birth month or the name of your first pet against you as part of phishing attempts.
9. Always question the legitimacy of unsolicited communications, including messages, links, or offers
If you receive a message with an offer, think critically before opening any links or downloading attachments. Many unsolicited links automatically install malware when opened. If you receive an unsolicited message, it’s best to ignore it. Responding can fuel the scammer.
10. Report suspicious activity
Help prevent further attacks by reporting suspicious activity through the proper channels. Take screenshots and document names, emails, and any pertinent information to share with Google.
What to do if someone scams you on Google Chat
If you’ve already handed over information to a scammer on Google Chat, don’t panic. Follow these simple steps and act quickly to mitigate any potential damage.
You want to stop contact as soon as possible, but make sure to collect all the possible information. Take screenshots of your conversations as well as the scammer’s account, and record any names and email addresses.
Block the scammer
Once you’ve collected as much evidence as you can, it’s time to block the scammer. Follow these steps to block a person in Google Chat. To block an open Google Chat on your computer:
- In Google Chat, open the conversation.
- In the top, click the conversation name > Manage members
- Next to the person’s name, click More Options and choose Block or Unblock.
To report the conversation as abuse, check the box next to “Report this space as spam or abuse.”
Contact your bank or financial institution
Monitor your bank accounts to check for any signs of fraudulent activity. If you notice something suspicious or if you receive instructions containing financial information, freeze your credit with all three bureaus. To do so, you must visit or call Equifax, Experian, and Transunion and follow the correct procedures for each respective organization.
Update your passwords and privacy settings
Once you’ve taken care of your banking information, secure your accounts with new strong passwords. Consider using a random password generator to create passwords, and do not reuse the same password across sites. Additionally, update your privacy settings for applicable accounts so that you know who is seeing what information.
File an official report
File an incident report with the FTC. In some instances, an FTC report is required for disputing fraudulent charges and closing accounts. You may consider filing a report with your local police department or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Install antivirus software and monitor accounts
Protect yourself from any malware, or malicious software that can sneakily access personal information on your device, by installing antivirus software. Continue to monitor any accounts to ensure there is no fraudulent activity.
Google Chat scams FAQs
Why do people want to use Google Chat?
Google Chat’s low barrier to entry makes it appealing for many users. Google Chat is free to use and easy to register, requiring only an email address to start messaging with other users.
Is it safe to chat on Google Chat?
Using safe online practices, like never sharing personal information online or talking with strangers, Google Chat is relatively safe to use, though we prefer more encrypted chat options like Signal.
How do you know if someone is real on Google Chat?
As scammers and technology like artificial intelligence evolve, discerning who, or what, is real on Google Chat gets more and more challenging. In general, if someone is asking for gifts or financial assistance, you should proceed with caution. Additionally, if you are chatting with someone for an extended period of time and they’re never available to call or video chat, that should be a red flag.
Is Google Chat safe from hackers?
Unfortunately, most platforms on the internet are susceptible to hackers, and Google Chat is no different. If you see unusual activity notifications, notice unauthorized financial activity, or experience changes to your privacy settings, your account may be hacked.
Is it safe to use Google Chat with strangers?
The internet is a tool that brings strangers from across the globe together. In that, there are inherent risks. If you choose to use Google Chat to message strangers, we recommend using discretion and never sharing any personally identifiable information or sending money.
Regardless of the messaging platform, knowing what to look for is the first step in identifying messaging scams and preventing identity theft. Once you recognize some of the warning signs of a Google Chat scam, like unsolicited chat invitations, messages with a sense of urgency, suspicious links, or requests for personal, sensitive information, it’s best to ignore them and report the user or conversation.
Anyone can become a victim of a phishing scam, and scammers are coming up with new, innovative ways to lure targets. Taking precautionary measures like enabling multi-factor authentication, investing in identity theft protection services, and using a password generator to create strong, unique passwords are simple ways to protect yourself before you even download Google Chat.
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