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For the first time for the tech giant, Google has filed a consumer protection lawsuit to protect vulnerable and unsuspecting individuals in what it calls a “criminal” scheme: adorable, but fictional, puppy sales.

A lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, alleges that a Cameroonian man cheated puppy buyers using a range of Google services, including Nche Noel Ntse, Gmail account, Google Voice number and ads.

According to court documents, Mr. Ntis seduced his prey with photographs of “adorable” and “tempting” purebred puppies, as well as “compulsory testimonials from allegedly satisfied customers” that served as high court demand for puppies in the United States during the coronavirus epidemic.

Google says it has spent more than $ 75,000 to “investigate and remedy” Mr. Ntse’s activities, and is suing him for financial damages, including damage to the company’s relationship with its users and damage to its reputation.

“This appears to be a particularly serious misuse of our products,” Google lawyer Michael Trin said in a phone call Monday.

The company said it was blocking access to 100 million malicious email users every day, but Mr Trin said he hoped the lawsuit would go further, setting an example for Mr Ntis. Google has decided not to pursue criminal charges in the case because it believes the civil case will be a speedy remedy, Mr Trin added. “It’s an ongoing battle.”

The lawsuit was filed by Jose Castaদাeda, a spokesman for Google’s first consumer protection lawsuit. He added that based on the extensive network of sites operated by Mr. Ntis, Google estimated that the victims lost more than $ 1 million in total.

Google’s legal action comes after the epidemic increased the demand for pets as well as increased schemes to capitalize on that desire.

Last year, consumers reported more than 8 5.8 billion in losses due to fraud, an increase of more than 70 percent from 2020, according to data from the Federal Trade Commission. According to the Better Business Bureau, online shopping scandals were particularly high during the epidemic. The group estimates that by 2021, pet-related fraud will account for 35 percent of such reports.

Google became aware of Mr. Antis’s activities in September 2021 after AARP received reports of abuse from an advocacy group for older Americans.

A man living in South Carolina contacted Mr. Ntsey in search of the dog after visiting a website he operated via email, which is now closed, the report said. After contacting Mr. Ntse by email and text, the man later sent him a $ 700 electronic gift card, the report said, “Victim 1 never received the puppy.”

According to the summons, Mr Ntis is located in the port city of Douala, home to more than two million people in Cameroon. He ran other websites, including one selling cannabis and prescription opiate cough syrup, the lawsuit says.

“When you go to buy a puppy, you don’t expect a criminal on the other end,” said Paul Brady, who runs PetScams.com, which tracks and reports websites that falsely claim to sell animals.

Scammers, often from outside the United States, post photos and videos of puppies at low prices and request online payments in advance, sometimes at extra cost, such as animal quarantine or delivery fees.

Such schemes have “exploded” in the last two years, Mr Brady said, adding that the scammers capitalized on people’s loneliness and took advantage of lockdowns that limited the ability to travel far from home to collect a puppy.

“People are sitting alone, and they want the company of an animal,” he said, recalling a particularly tragic incident where a woman spent $ 25,000 to buy a Pomeranian puppy.

Credit …District Court of the United States Northern District of California

For Ra রাসl Raskovich, 28, the experience of being deceived by an online pet scheme was devastating.

About a year ago, Mrs. Raskovich, who works in the mortgage industry, had just moved to South Carolina and was hoping to buy her first puppy: a golden retriever.

He explored his options, eventually filling out an online form that is now extinct, including detailed questions about his plans to care for the animal, he said, which led him to believe the process was legitimate.

He made a 700 deposit to the seller, who sent him a video of what he thought was his soon-to-be puppy. She bought toys and a dog bed.

Then, he said, the seller demanded an additional 3 1,300 for a coronavirus vaccine for the dog and an air-conditioned shipping crate. Mrs Raskovich said she was told to expect The call came from Delta Air Lines, which the seller claimed the animal would be transported – but when he called to confirm, the airline told him it would not send the animal.

“Then I was, ‘OK, this is definitely not valid,'” he said, adding that he had cut off communication. The identity of the seller has never been determined.

“You’re ready for this new addition to your life,” said Mrs. Raskovich. “It’s bad.”

Contributed by Kirsten Noise Reporting.

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