A new relentless scam is flooding the Internet, this time taking the form of a Google doc. Many of us have received an invitation to collaborate on a work or to share documents with, but this new scam is anything but a collaboration. It is an elaborate phishing scam that is aimed at getting your passwords, social security numbers or any other personally identifying information. There is a good possibility that the person sending you a Google doc or sheets invite knows how the system works. One of the safest safeguards you can implement is to ask the person who sent the invite (assuming you know them in some way).  Chances are if you are not at work or part of an organization that requires you to share information and documentation, then it is probably a scam.

How the Google Scam Works

The scam starts off with a familiar scene. As with any Google doc request, you will get an invitation in email that will state someone shared a document with you. You click on the “Google Docs” icon and it takes you to a screen that is similar to a Google login screen where you submit your username and password. Sounds familiar, right? The problem comes next when you are asked to click on the button that grants permission for a third-party application to interact with Google services. Because many of us gloss over the permission (because we can’t move on without it), the phishers have us at a disadvantage. At that point of submission, your passwords and your personal information is in the hands of the scammer.

It feels innocuous but the damage is done. The way it looks and feels may mimic the Google docs itself but there are intricacies that make it extremely dangerous. What’s even more unnerving is the fact that it may not affect you immediately.

Safeguarding Yourself from the Google Scam

There are things you can do to protect yourself from these scams.

  • Contact the originator of the document to see if it is legitimate.
  • If you’re unsure about in any way, don’t click on it. Think before you click.
  • If you’re not expecting anything from anyone, it’s probably a scam.
  • Click on “Reply” but do not send to see the extension of the email is. If it is a series of numbers and letters, followed by a dotcom, it is not legitimate.
  • Check the grammar of the invitation. All legitimate Google docs invites have a standard wording. If it reads incorrectly, chances are it is a scam.

Scammers and phishers don’t really care how they get their information. The Google docs scheme is just one of the many that have been tried over time. If you have due diligence in an ever expanding web, then you can safeguard yourself from online attacks and schemes like this one.