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Security & privacy

These 2 new Google scams are easy to fall for – Don’t become a victim

The internet has been a hotbed for scams since it gained widespread use. Some of the earliest tricks involved phishing, in which scammers imitate a known company or service in an attempt to access victims’ credentials or financial information. They also send malicious links containing malware.

Threat actors are still employing scams such as this and getting away with it. A recent one involves emails sent to Office 365 users with a link to a fake website and instructions to log in. Once the victim does this, their accounts are taken over. Tap or click here for more details and Microsoft’s response.

With so much of our lives connected to the internet, scammers don’t even need computers to target victims. They can get in through smart devices, apps and anything else connected to a network. We’ve highlighted two scams that target popular Google services and will also let you know what to look out for.

Fake YouTube activation link

Smart televisions are great for accessing content from numerous sources without the need for a streaming device. The TV itself can stream content from Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, live events, and other services while also accessing your social media, web browser and smart home services.

When you install an app on your smart TV, you are sometimes required to visit an activation page online to get it running. This usually syncs up your account with your television so you can bring over your settings, subscriptions and history.

YouTube has such an activation process. Download the app to your TV, and you’ll see a popup with an activation code to insert in the following URL: youtube.com/activate.

Some of the more suspicious among you may Google links such as this to see if they’re legit. While it’s important to take precautions, sometimes this can work against you.

Mashable recently uncovered a scam in which a Google search of the YouTube activation link leads to a fake page. Inputting the code from the TV leads to an error page with instructions and a phone number to contact YouTube support.

The call is answered by a swindler who tells the user they need to cough up a refundable fee to activate their service. The money is requested via PayPal, Zelle, Venmo or even gift cards. Of course, none of the money is refunded.

A similar scam involving Roku users and fake customer service was recently uncovered. Tap or click here for the story.

“Troubleshooting” involves convincing users that YouTube needs to charge a refundable fee to their credit card or bank account to “activate” the service. This type of fee, usually around $1 or less, is sometimes initiated through services such as PayPal or Venmo when a new user links their new account to an outside service, like a checking account with a bank.

Don’t fall for this devious scam. If you’re looking to activate YouTube on your smart TV, just put youtube.com/activate in your browser and follow the steps.

Phony Google Meet links

Video conferencing apps are more popular than ever as more people work from home. Google Meet is among the favored programs for businesses and private users to conduct meetings, hold events and keep in touch with others. Because so many people use the software, it is ripe for scams.

Cybersecurity researchers at GreatHorn report a 57% increase in phishing attacks involving open redirects in Google Meet. Open redirects are user-submitted links that redirect you to a given website or page from another. The URL contains the domain name the user is coming from and thus looks trustworthy.

A scammer can exploit this trust by directing you to a page that looks real and is under a legitimate-looking URL. You’ll get a link with the domain of meet.google.com/, but the destination site is malicious. The links lead to pages that request your credentials or trigger malware to be downloaded to your device.

Here are some suggestions to avoid falling victim:

Be wary of any links you receive, whether they’re through text, email or chat software. If you’re unsure about the link, don’t click it. Also, don’t open attachments found in unsolicited emails. They could be loaded with malware.

Next, keep your devices updated with the latest official software and patches and always have a trusted antivirus program running. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV.

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