On Monday, Google said that it’s suing a threat actor who has been tracked operating fraudulent websites to dupe people into buying puppies that don’t exist. 

“The actor used a network of fraudulent websites that claimed to sell basset hound puppies — with alluring photos and fake customer testimonials — in order to take advantage of people during the pandemic,” Google’s CyberCrime Investigation Group manager Albert Shin and senior counsel Mike Trinh said.

The fake scheme entailed Nche Noel Ntse of Cameroon tricking people via fake websites, Google Voice phone numbers, and Gmail accounts. People would pay thousands of dollars for “adorable puppies” that didn’t exist. 

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The alleged threat actor seemed to have driven a Google Ads campaign to place the fake website at the top of search result pages. Google called it “multiple international non-delivery scams.”

“Sadly, this scam disproportionately targeted older Americans, who can be more vulnerable to cyberattacks,” the tech giant said.

To identify a pet scam, Google advises users that they verify the pet in person or via a video call before paying. Further, Google recommends performing a reverse image search to determine if it’s a stock image or a stolen photo and verifying the authenticity of the seller.