On Monday, Google sued an alleged puppy scammer who used its services to peddle purebred puppies that didn’t exist. The lawsuit was filed in California national court against Nche Noel Ntse of Cameroon, who allegedly used Gmail, fake websites, a Google Ads campaign, and Google Voice phone numbers to scam vulnerable people, such as elderly internet users looking to buy a fluffy friend, out of hundreds or thousands. Google is seeking statutory relief for damages.
The defendant reportedly collected payment in gift cards. In one instance, he collected $700 from a South Carolina resident seeking a basset hound before later asking for another $1,500 due to increased costs of the “delivery company.”
Nche Noel Ntse is accused of running several similar websites selling different breeds of puppies, including Maltipoos and basset hounds. Google also believes that he controlled a fraudulent website that purported to sell marijuana and prescription opiate cough syrup.
Woof! — “Sadly, this scam disproportionately targeted older Americans, who can be more vulnerable to cyberattacks” wrote Google representatives in a Monday blog post titled “Hounding scammers with litigation.” The authors offered four pieces of advice for internet users hoping to avoid a pet scam: see the pet in person (or on a video call) before paying any money, use verified payment methods (not gift cards), use reverse image search, and search online for the seller.
According to the Better Business Bureau, 35% of all online shopping scams reported to it in 2021 were “pet scams.” Believe it or not, this is not the first Cameroonian puppy scammer to face charges from Google. Last year, a 28-year-old Cameroon man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud online purchasers of pets.