Google's new social networking feature, Google+, is already starting out with a few serious minuses, at least by association.
Experts at the security firm Trend Micro have noticed what pretend to be legitimate Google+ "personal invites" floating around the Web. The messages inform recipients that all they have to do to join Google+ is download an attached invitation.
Meanwhile, the dedicated Facebook watchers at Sophos have found a rogue app that also claims to be a Google+ invitation -- essentially a link from one social network to another.
Of course, neither scam actually gets you into this month's exclusive Internet club. Instead, they get your personal information.
The non-Facebook fake invitation imitates common Facebook scams by taking respondents to a series of survey pages, where they're asked to hand over personal information, including their mobile phone numbers. In some cases, the scammers even attempt to trick users into paying for the invitation.
The Facebook one, on the other hand, first asks your permission to let a third-party app access your records, and then asks you to invite all your friends as well. Essentially, you're giving the scammers details about hundreds of people rather than just one.
Launched two weeks ago and touted as a social network that is more exclusive and privacy-oriented than Facebook, Google+ has started as an invitation-only program. Current Google+ users must invite new members, but it is free.
Ironically, one of the first non-Google employees to join Google+ was Facebook founder and cinematic villain Mark Zuckerberg, who quickly shot to the top of the list of Google+ users with the most followers.
However, last night Zuckerberg took the step of closing off his Google+ account to the public, something most Google top brass also did for reasons yet unknown.
With the immediate out-of-the-gate popularity of Google+ — one unofficial statistician estimated it passed 10 million users yesterday (July 12) — it's no big shock that cybercriminals, perhaps too easily spotted with their daily onslaught of Facebook scams, would pick Google+ as a new target.
Only time will tell how well Google+ users protect themselves, and what steps Google will take in the event it becomes a hotbed for computer criminals they way Facebook has.
Fortunately, it looks like Google is tackling the issue head-on.
In an official Gmail blog posting on June 28, Google's Ela Iwaszkiewicz wrote that Gmail, in an attempt to prevent users from downloading corrupted messages or attachments, now automatically displays more information about the origin of emails.
Gmail also is configured to automatically detect suspicious messages and display a warning to users when it looks as if someone has spoofed a Gmail address to carry out an attack.