Online photo sharing has become a popular method for families and friends to easily share photos with each other. Top photo-sharing platforms include Google, Facebook, and Instagram with more than 95 million photos and videos shared each day. Unfortunately, this popularity also has a dark side.
Over the last few months, consumers have reported a surge in photo-sharing scams. Google Photos, in particular, has been targeted by scammers trying to take advantage of users. The message states that someone has shared a photo album with you. The scam notification usually comes by text or email with a link to the “album”. The URL seems real. The no-reply email address appears to be a legitimate Google address. But there’s a problem. The URL is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing – made to look official by Google’s own goo.gl URL shortener. The message – a phishing scam pure and simple!
If you click on the link, you’ll be prompted to sign-in to Google. If you follow through, you’ll give scammers exactly what they want – your log-in credentials. They now have access to all the Google apps you use including Gmail, Google Calendar, and more. To make things worse, every other app or account that you access using your Google credentials has also been compromised! So how do you protect yourself?
- Never click on a link in a message sent to you out of the blue. If you ever receive a notification from any photo-sharing platform, stop and think before clicking. Do I have an account with this platform? Do I recognize the person listed as the sender? If you don’t use the platform or don’t recognize the sender, then don’t click on the link.
- If the message appears to be from a friend or family member, but they don’t normally share photos with you, call them first to verify that they are the sender.
- Hover over the link – even shortened ones – to be sure it’s taking you to a legitimate website.
- Immediately change all account passwords, if your Google account has been compromised and you have linked other accounts to it.
- Google offers options for making your Google Photos Album safer for friends and family.
- Report this and other scams to bbb.org.