MARTINSVILLE — Check your bank statements.
A scam involving unauthorized Google charges is hitting bank accounts across the country including right here in Indiana.
A Martinsville woman contacted WRTV Investigates for help.
The charges are totally bogus but appear to be coming from Google and Google Play, and typically there’s more than one on your credit or debit card.
Anita Caincross of Martinsville went out to dinner with a friend, and when she went to pay with her debit card, it would not go through.
“I checked my account, and it was literally at zero,” said Caincross.
She found four separate charges totaling $4,065 that appeared to be from Google, with names next to each charge that Caincross did not recognize like “Duncan Oti” and “Maleto Ke.”
“I was angry,” Caincross said. “What the heck happened here?”
Caincross said the bogus Google purchases emptied her account which made it difficult to pay the bills.
“I had a car payment and a house payment, and I’m never late on payments like that,” Caincross said.
Caincross contacted Google, but she says the company refused to refund her money.
So, she contacted her bank, Fifth Third who reversed the charges.
“I canceled the card and filed the dispute,” Caincross said.
WRTV Investigates found customers from other banks across the country who’ve also been hit with bogus Google charges.
This Reddit blog shows dozens of people who experienced fraudulent Google charges.
The amounts often start small, because the scammers hope you won’t notice.
"You may not think twice if you see Google, so that's why you've really got to drill down and see what those charges are,” said Jennifer Adamany, a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana. “Access your Google account and see what you're subscribed to and see if something doesn't look right. You have a better chance of stopping it early on."
The best thing you can do is to regularly check your banking statements and look for unauthorized charges, even if they’re small.
“Keep an eye on it early on so you can put a stop before it gets to larger amounts,” Adamany said.
Anita Caincross is sharing what happened to spread awareness about phony Google charges.
"It's important to be careful when using your debit cards online or anywhere because your information is extremely vulnerable,” Caincross said. “They can wipe you out in the matter of a seconds. You have to be hyper-vigilant.”
WRTV Investigates has reached out to Google via email and phone and we are still waiting to hear back.
Fifth Third provided the following statement:
We have not seen any specific uptick related to this scam, however, Fifth Third takes fraud very seriously and continues to monitor trends and mitigate risks for our customers. Customers should always report any fraud as soon as possible to Fifth Third. They should also continue to be alert to scams via text and email.
There always seems to be new (and old) ways to try to scam people. People commonly get these types of fake messages purporting to be from different banks, so people need to be careful regardless of where they bank. Below are some tips we provide related to scams:
- Be suspicious if you get a call or text asking for personal information such as account numbers or your Social Security Number.
- Be cautious if the person calling or texting has an urgent tone or if you are directed to an automated voice response asking you to validate information.
- Be cautious about clicking links within text messages.
- Never provide personal information over the phone or via text unless you initiated the call to a verified Fifth Third Bank phone number.
If customers have a question/are suspicious about an email, phone call, or text, contact Fifth Third directly to help.
- Call us via a verified Fifth Third Bank phone number and ask to be transferred to the person or department mentioned in the communication.
- Forward suspected phishing emails that appear to be from Fifth Third Bank to firstname.lastname@example.org. Suspicious emails appearing to come from other entities should be forwarded to email@example.com