Avoid scams

No, you probably haven’t won the lottery. You can’t make that much working from home. And that deal really might be too good to be true.

The web can be a great place, but not everyone online has good intentions. Here are three simple ways to avoid scammers and stay safe on the web:

Beware of strangers bearing gifts

A message is probably up to no good if it congratulates you for being a website’s millionth visitor, offers a tablet computer or other prize in exchange for completing a survey or promotes quick and easy ways to make money or get a job (“get rich quick working from your home in just two hours a day!”). If someone tells you you’re a winner and asks you to fill out a form with your personal information don’t be tempted to start filling it out. Even if you don’t hit the “submit” button, you might still be sending your information to scammers if you start putting your data into their forms.

If you see a message from someone you know that doesn’t seem like them, their account may have been compromised by a cyber criminal who is trying to get money or information from you – so be careful how you respond. Common tactics include asking you to urgently send them money, claiming to be stranded in another country or saying that their phone has been stolen so that they cannot be called. The message may also tell you to click on a link to see a picture, article or video, which actually leads you to a site that might steal your information – so think before you click!

Do your research

When shopping online, research the seller and be wary of suspiciously low prices just like you would if you were buying something at a local store. Scrutinize online deals that seem too good to be true. No one wants to get tricked into buying fake goods. People who promise normally non-discounted expensive products or services for free or at 90% off likely have malicious intent. If you use Gmail, you may see a warning across the top of your screen if you’re looking at an email our system says might be a scam – if you see this warning, think twice before responding to that email.

Watch out for scams using the Google brand. Google does not run a lottery. We do not charge training fees for new employees – if you receive an email saying you have been hired by Google but have to pay a training fee before you can start, it is a scam. Watch out for people claiming to sell cars using Google Wallet. Find out more about various scams using the Google brand.

When in doubt, play it safe

Do you just have a bad feeling about an ad or an offer? Trust your gut! Only click on ads or buy products from sites that are safe, reviewed, and trusted.

Many online shopping platforms have trusted merchants/sellers programs. These sellers typically have a visible stamp of approval on their profiles. Make sure that the stamp or certificate is legitimate by reviewing the shopping platforms’ guidelines. If the platform doesn’t offer a similar program, take a look at the number of reviews and the quality of reviews on the seller.

And, if you clicked on or saw a bad ad on Google, please let us know so we can take action.

Additional help

Several organizations may help you report and resolve any complaints: The Better Business Bureau and the National Consumers League both offer information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit: www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact.shtm

You may wish to file a report with the appropriate authorities and/or your regional fraud reporting center — such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center.

If your complaint is against a company in a foreign country, you may be able to report complaints at: www.econsumer.gov