Google sues alleged operator of puppy breeder’s website scam
- Google is suing a person named Nche Noel Ntse, alleging that she runs fraudulent websites.
- In its lawsuit, the tech giant said the websites scammed people looking to buy basset hounds.
- Extremism researcher Seamus Hughes broke the story on Twitter.
Google has fired its attorneys over a person the company says used its suite of tools to perpetuate an online puppy scam, a form of fraud that has cropped up more and more during the pandemic.
The tech giant filed a lawsuit on Monday against a website owner named Nche Noel Ntse, claiming that the defendant had created several sites intended to “scam internet users” by luring them with “alluring pictures of purebred puppies pure”. Google attorneys filed the case in US District Court in San Jose, California.
Seamus Hughes, Deputy Director of George Washington University Program on Extremismannounced the news on Twitter, noting that the lawsuit was filed around 3 a.m. in California.
Buying pet puppies online has become a daunting task during the pandemic. Online puppy scams have surged as the COVID-19 pandemic has spiked demand for pets. In 2020, the Better Business Bureau reported that online pet scams tripled year over year. At the end of 2021, the consumer advocacy group warned that online puppy sales remained “extremely riskyfor future pet parents.
Google’s lawsuit against Ntse appears to be an attempt to fend off this form of fraud. In their filing, company attorneys at Cooley LLP wrote that Ntse “perpetrated a puppy fraud scheme to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for personal gain, while taking advantage of unsuspecting and vulnerable victims.” . Ntse is accused of creating websites filled with photos of “adorable puppies” and “compelling testimonials from supposedly satisfied customers”.
“These photos are intended to trick potential victims into believing that the puppies are real and are interacting with real dog breeders,” Google’s attorneys wrote.
Google’s legal team alleged that the defendant not only “didn’t actually sell puppies,” but that the websites constituted an “international non-delivery scam” that lulls “victims into a false sense of confidence after investing a lot of time and energy communicating with people they think they’ve gotten to know.” According to Google, Ntse is looking to “exploit the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting high demand for puppies” in the United States.
Google’s lawyers wrote in their filing that “the online puppy scam is particularly harmful because it not only relies on one-to-one communications, but also exploits the joy of adopting a pet, leading to both emotional damage and financial loss.”
The filing included images of basset hound puppies featured on Ntse’s website, including one nicknamed “Hatie” who was described as a 10-week-old American Kennel Club-registered female with “up-to-date” vaccinations for $700 . Another screenshot showed an “about us” web page for Jerry’s Basset Hound Home welcoming “all dog lovers in our world of basset hounds.”
Google also terminated Ntse’s use of various “fraudulent Google accounts” which were used to register websites and “communicate false promises to victims”. As an attachment, the tech company included a copy of its terms of service, which it said Ntse violated. Google asked the court to put in place “a permanent injunction enjoining and prohibiting” Ntse from continuing to operate the fraudulent websites, as well as establishing Google accounts. The company is also seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial.