Google has sued a man for allegedly abusing its services to trick droves of would-be pet owners into forking over money for non-existent basset hound puppies.
On Monday, the great and mighty search engine filed a lawsuit against Nche Noel Ntse, of Cameroon, accusing him of violating Google’s terms of service by using its platforms to engage in a vast “puppy fraud” conspiracy.
That scheme, which mostly preyed on elderly people with the false promise of adorable, floppy eared companions, allegedly used a variety of online tricks like fake dog sales websites with phony testimonials and “alluring photos” of the (fake) dogs. Ntse is alleged to have manipulated his victims via one-on-one conversations, compelling them to send him money for pups that would never come.
Propping up the the scheme were “dozens of fraudulent Google accounts” set up with “Gmail and Google Voice... to communicate false promises to victims, register the fraudulent websites with U.S. internet hosting companies, and request and receive payments,” Google writes in the lawsuit. The suit did not list contact information for Ntse, and Gizmodo’s attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.
The suit reads, in part:
“Defendant Nche Noel Ntse has been perpetrating a puppy fraud scheme to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for personal gain, while taking advantage of unsuspecting and vulnerable victims. Defendant runs multiple non-delivery websites that deceive and defraud internet users in the United States. Some of these fraudulent websites purport to sell adorable puppies, and victims are tricked into believing the websites are legitimate because of their alluring photos of purebred puppies (see Figure 1), and compelling testimonials from supposedly satisfied customers.”
In a blog post published Monday, Google’s Senior Counsel, Mike Trinh, and CyberCrime Investigation Group manager, Albert Shin, revealed further details of the suit, which seeks to fight back against the scourge of fake dogs and the people who hawk them.
“Sadly, this scam disproportionately targeted older Americans, who can be more vulnerable to cyberattacks. The FTC and FBI report that older people are scammed out of an estimated $650 million per year, the duo wrote, in the blog post. “That’s why we’re taking proactive action to set a legal precedent, protect victims, disrupt the scammer’s infrastructure, and raise public awareness. Of course, legal action is just one way we work to combat these types of scams.”