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Google’s new Scam Spotter site could help curb coronavirus scams

Published May 28th, 2020 5:10PM EDT
Google Scam Spotter
Image: Scam Spotter

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  • Google launched a new program called Scam Spotter this week that aims to help people spot and avoid common scams on the internet.
  • The three golden rules of scam spotting are to take your time, do your research on the person or group that has gotten in touch with you, and refuse to send anything on the spot.
  • Google also put together a quiz that you can take to see if you can detect common scams.

Scams are as pervasive now as they have ever been, from spoofed phone calls to texts with malicious links to sites and apps that attempt to steal our data. If you want to stay safe online, you need to be vigilant at all times, especially during a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, which really seems to draw scammers out of the woodwork.

In order to keep people safe from these scams, Google launched a new program this week called Scam Spotter. As the name suggests, Scam Spotter helps you detect scams on sight and avoid accidentally giving your information or money to bad actors. Those of us who spend all day online have to become adept at spotting and avoiding scams, but that’s not the case for everyone, and this could be an incredibly valuable resource.

When you visit the website, you will be introduced to the three golden rules of scam spotting:

  1. Slow it down — Scammers often create a sense of urgency so that they can bypass your better instincts. Take your time and ask questions to avoid being rushed into a bad situation.
  2. Spot check — Do your research to double check the details you’re getting. If you get an unexpected phone call, hang up. Then look up the bank, agency or organization that’s supposedly calling and get in touch directly.
  3. Stop! Don’t send — No reputable person or agency will ever demand payment on the spot. Often, scammers tell you to go buy gift cards—which are meant only to be given as a gift, not as payment under threat. So if you think the payment feels fishy, it probably is.

Data from the Federal Trade Commission

(FTC) shows that more than $40 million of fraud loss related to COVID-19 scams has already been reported as of May 27th. A vast majority of these scams concern travel or vacation, which makes sense, because millions of people had to cancel trips due to the pandemic.

Of course, reading the tips and actually implementing them in your life are two different things, which is why Google has also included a quiz on its website which will test you to see whether or not you may fall for a scam. In one of the scenarios, you get a text from someone who says their son was in an accident and they need help paying the medical bills. They say that you can help by sending them gift cards, and if you perused the site, you would know that gift card scams like these are incredibly common. Click SCAM! and move on to the next question.

However savvy you think you may be, it’s not a bad idea to at least give the Scam Spotter site a once-over. The worst case scenario is you find out you were already well-prepared to spot and avoid common scams.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.