As you may be aware, Google turns 15 this September. The multibillion-dollar tech giant will probably celebrate with a cute Google Doodle and maybe even — we're just throwing out suggestions here — a new Android operating system. "Birthday Cake," anyone?
In any case, one thing Google's definitely not doing is giving you free money.
That's the premise of a new email scam detected by security blog Hoax-Slayer.
Targets receive an email addressed to "dear email owner" (warning sign No. 1) claiming that the recipient has "won yourself" (warning sign No. 2) 800,000 British pounds (a missing period at the end of the sentence is warning sign No. 3).
[See also: Vanity Scam Strokes Egos to Steal Info]
"The Anniversary Centre of Google Inc. selected your email ID as one of its 20 chosen fortunate winner to receive this award," the email reads, bringing our warning sign total up to five. (There's no such thing as an "Anniversary Centre of Google Inc.," and there should be an "s" at the end of "winners." Grammar's important, kids.)
Below that are several gibberish "identification numbers," and then we get to warning sign number six: the "claim agent" contact listed at the bottom of the email doesn't even have a Gmail address, despite purportedly working for Google. What's xbmail.com? Nowhere I want to be sending an email.
But the email specifies that you'll have to send your name, country, contact address, telephone number, fax number (warning sign No. 7 — who uses faxes anymore?), sex and age to email@example.com.
And that's warning sign No. 8, because if Google were going to give you money, the company would likely make you sign up for a Google Wallet account first, and deposit the money directly there.
If you do, however, try to claim your prize, you'll receive a follow-up email explaining that to claim your 800,000 pounds you'll have to pay a series of "unavoidable" upfront fees. And no, the follow-up email will explain, you can't deduct the fees from the prize money, for "legal reasons."
You can imagine how the rest goes down. Email recipients who actually pay these fees are essentially handing money over to the scammers who wrote the emails. These trusting recipients also open themselves up to the possibility of identity theft and hijacked credit card accounts.
As the Hoax-Slayer blog explains : "Alas, 'dear email owner' is not so fortunate after all, and has won nary a penny ... The cash prize exists only in the nefarious mind of the scammer who sent the email."
These types of email scams are nothing new. Most people have heard the one about the Nigerian prince who needs help to reclaim his stolen kingdom; this is no different.
Here are a few things you can do to avoid falling for such scams:
Change your email filter settings so unknown messages have a harder time getting to your inbox. Don't give out your credit card number or other personal information, except on a trusted website with a trusted Internet connection.
Never trust any lotteries that require advance fees; these are almost always scams. Finally, treat everything you see online with a healthy dose of skepticism, especially if the text contains any misspellings or grammatical errors.