This is a truly cruel scam. Here’s the dramatic way Google is trying to stop it

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The call comes. And your instinct is to react instantly.

Screenshot by ZDNet

We all think we are invulnerable. Until life events – or some kind of callous cyber-scams – prove otherwise.

A momentary error in judgment, a moment of inattention of instant reaction, and we can descend into a hole that is difficult to get out of.

A particularly cruel scam involves preying on those – the elderly or those unfamiliar with administration, for example – who are most inclined to believe that an official sounding phone call is real.

The appellant may claim – as the one I received the other day did – that he is from the “Department of Taxes”. They may claim that a family member has been arrested and their bond needs to be paid. And, as panic can set in, the request is simple: you can make it all go away with gift cards.


See also: Online shopping? The FBI says beware of these vacation scams and phishing threats.


It may sound like a complete rip off to most, but not to everyone. However, how to reach the most vulnerable?

Cybersecurity platform Scam detector, a non-profit collaboration between the Cybercrime Support Network and Google, try something different. Instead of dire warnings that might not pass in a relatively dire world, let’s go for the action movie processing.

his new ad shows us a grandmother receive a call late at night.

“Your granddaughter has been incarcerated in a foreign prison,” begins the robotic voice. “She provided your number as a family representative to pay her deposit. The only method of payment we accept is gift cards.”

Because it is the currency of most foreign countries. Everyone knows that.

In this case, however, instead of presenting Grandma as a victim, Scam Spotter turns her into an action hero.

She’s not going to pay with gift cards out of fear. She has a whole different gift in mind.

Luckily, she’s adept at driving really fast, jumping very high, piloting a helicopter, parachuting with precision, and incapacitating horrible little men.

She saves her teenage granddaughter with consummate aplomb, as this message pops up: “If this sounds amazing, it probably is.”

A lesson in life, not just for scams.


See also: Google disrupts massive phishing and malware campaign.


The Scam Spotter website offers simple rules to follow when you receive one of these calls: Don’t fall for the apparent urgency of the situation. Check the details. (There really is no tax department.) And never, ever send anything to these people.

“No trustworthy person or agency will ever demand payment on the spot,” says Scam Spotter.

The crooks keep doing it because people keep falling for it. Scam Spotter is at least trying to attack a problem that is causing so much unnecessary suffering.

We can only hope it works. Or start to work. Or at least has a small effect.


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