How Google Maps scam could leave your bank account EMPTY – how to protect yourself
Joseph Asamoah-Agyei|Aug. 08, 2019
GOOGLE users are being warned over a dangerous new internet scam that's almost impossible to spot.
Fraudsters can edit contact information for companies on Google Maps, luring unsuspecting users in with fake details.
When you search for a company – like your bank or internet provider – in Google, a small info box will appear.
This will feature useful info, and often includes a contact phone number.
But absolutely anyone can edit this information, which means it can be exploited by fraudsters.
Now The Hindu reports that there's a growing trend of users being scammed in this way.
So how does the scam work?
Fraudsters will edit the contact number of a bank, for instance, and replace it with their own.
Bank customers may then call the fraudsters, thinking they're getting in touch with their bank.
Scammers can use this technique to steal significant sums of money from people, or acquire personal details for further fraud.
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Speaking to The Sun, Adam Brown, manager of security solutions at Synopsys, said: "It's possible for any user to suggest edits to any place on Google Maps.
"While this keeps information up to date and relevant, it also leaves the information open to integrity abuse."
According to Brown, Google has several safeguards in place.
If you try to update a Google Maps info page, it will go through a review process – before the suggested updates are applied.
But there may be an issue with how stringent this review process is.
"Assuming this is an automated process, there will be a trust weighting," Brown told The Sun.
"For example, if you regularly update information, enhance it and make it more accurate, you will have a higher trust score.
"So for perpetrators to successfully update a phone number of a bank for example, they may have to rely on Google's local guides to OK the update.
"However it's very easy to become a local guide – anyone can do it, so perpetrators could easily organise local resources they control to do this."
Google Maps scam – how to stay safe Here's advice from Synopsys' Adam Brown, a cybersecurity expert... "Users can't tell if the details in a map are correct or not. "Really though, as a matter of habit, users should never trust any source of information that isn't directly from the bank and verifiable – so for example the bank's website, app or even the details on the back of your bank card." "It would appear to prevent this kind of scam, Google should update their review process. "Updates to financial institution contact details could be given a different weighting to other updates for example."
A Google spokesperson told The Sun: "As soon as we were notified about the issue, the team worked quickly to address it.
"We have clear policies in place to ensure the quality of business profiles on Google. We take violations of these policies seriously and work fast to take appropriate action.
"We use manual and automated systems to detect for spam and fraud, but we tend not to share details behind our processes so as not to tip off spammers or others with bad intent."
Have you spotted any cheeky online scams? Let us know in the comments!
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