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4 Things You Shouldn’t Google

You shouldn't Google these four things - the results could be dangerous.

Google is a tool that most of us use every day, or close to it. Whether it’s to check the score of your game, get information you need, verify a fact, or win an argument, we all know the quickest way to learn the facts – just Google it! But there are some things you shouldn’t Google. That’s because some searches can be dangerous. Scammers know how to trick the system and use Google to get you onto their scam websites. If you Google any of these risky searches, you may lose money or have your identity stolen by a scammer.

How Scammers Game the System

Google uses an algorithm to decide which search results to show you. It looks at what you typed into the search bar, and it sorts through all the website information it has, and it determines which sites it thinks are most likely to be what you want. Website owners use a process called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, to tell Google’s algorithm what kind of information the website has. That’s how if you search for “today’s weather,” you don’t get websites selling dog food.

There are many legitimate reasons to use SEO. If you run the ABC Product Company, for example, SEO tells Google that someone searching for “ABC Product Company” would want to see your website. But scammers can also use it for nefarious purposes. They can use SEO to trick Google into thinking they’re legitimate and that it should show you their dangerous website.

Google doesn’t want those scammers in your search results any more than you do. But the internet is huge. There are over a billion websites out there, and more are created every day. They can’t check all of them. Tools like Enhanced Safe Browsing can add additional protection. But unfortunately, it’s up to you to know what things you shouldn’t Google and how to keep yourself safe.

1. You Shouldn’t Google “[Company] Phone Number”

Sometimes you just need to talk to customer service. But whether you’re trying to get help with your printer, your electric bill, or a recent purchase, customer service phone numbers are one of the things you shouldn’t Google. It’s very easy for scammers to set up fake websites with fake customer service phone numbers. If you’re just going from what Google told you, you might call a scammer instead.

When you call, thinking you’ve reached the real customer support line, you’re an easy target. They could ask you for personal information to “verify your account.” They could then use that information to steal your identity, or they could sell it to other scammers to target you with different scams. If they convince you to read them a code they texted you to “verify” yourself, they can take over your account your your phone number. Or they could use support scam tactics to steal your money. In the end, you’ll have lost some money, and the original problem you called about still hasn’t been solved.

What to Do Instead

First, see if there’s another way to get the phone number. If you’re trying to reach a utility provider, for example, their phone number is probably on your most recent bill. You can find your bank’s number on your statements or on the back of your card. Any product that comes with a manual will have the support number somewhere in the manual. And if it’s a purchase, look for the store number on your receipt.

If you really can’t find the number you need anywhere else, you still shouldn’t Google for their phone number. Instead, find the company’s website. Verify that it’s the real website first – make sure the address doesn’t contain any lookalike characters, and read a few pages to watch for warning signs like poor grammar and misplaced punctuation. Then find the support page and use the number from that website.

2. You Shouldn’t Google “High Paying Remote Job”

Getting a job that pays really well and lets you work from home is a dream for many people. Unfortunately, scammers know that too. That’s why terms like “high paying remote job,” “work from home job hiring now,” and similar searches are things you shouldn’t Google. Scammers can use job scams to lure you in. They look like great jobs – almost always remote, frequently part-time, and always offering a lot of money for easy work.

But you know the saying about things that are too good to be true. Ultimately, these amazing-sounding jobs are completely fake. The scammers could be using the information you put on your job application to steal your identity. But it’s just as likely they’ll target your money. They may ask you to pay for “training” or “equipment” that you’ll be reimbursed for, or send you your first check and ask you to send some of the money somewhere else. These are common scammer tricks to steal your money.

What to Do Instead

If getting a remote job is important to you, start on legitimate job sites. Sites like Indeed, Glassdoor Monster, and LinkedIn are known and trusted, and they will let you filter by job location – including fully remote. It can also be advantageous to narrow your job search to particular jobs that fit your skills and experience. Jobs with broad descriptions and general skills are more likely to be suspicious.

Also know what warning signs of job scams to watch out for. Just because the listing is on a legitimate site doesn’t mean it is legitimate. Beware of any job where the pay seems really high for the type of work described. As nice as it would be to make $90,000 per year to respond to emails, it’s not realistic. And do your research into the employer before you apply. If they seem fishy, it’s best to move on.

Let’s admit it – we’ve all had the urge to dig up all the information we can find on someone. But terms like “free people search” or “free people finder website” are among the things you shouldn’t Google. The websites that come up in these searches tend to be sketchy. And your quest to find the dirt on someone else could reveal way more than you expected about you!

Even though this search term has “free” in it, these sites are never as free as they lead you to believe. They are perfectly happy to take your money, and your personal information, in exchange for what you’re looking for. And they are notorious for charging you way more than you expected. Whether or not they’re scams depends on how you define scam, but it’s definitely best to avoid them.

What to Do Instead

Just because you shouldn’t look for people finder sites on Google doesn’t mean there’s no way to track down information on someone else. You can get a lot from public records. Property records, voter registration records, and criminal records are available for free online. The White Pages still exists, and you can get a lot of information on Social media and even pictures could help you track someone down.

And if you don’t want people to be able to find your information on people search websites, learn how to remove your information.

4. You Shouldn’t Google “Crypto Wallet”

If you want to do anything with cryptocurrency, you’ll need a crypto wallet. Unlike a physical wallet that holds your credit cards and cash, your crypto wallet doesn’t actually contain your cryptocurrency. Instead, it contains the keys that let you access your cryptocurrency. Just like anyone with the keys to your car could get in it and drive away, anyone with the keys to your cryptocurrency could do whatever they wanted with it. So if you have cryptocurrency, you want a good wallet.

However, crypto wallets are one of the things you just shouldn’t ask Google. Cryptocurrency is a big business for scammers, and they know how to get their crypto scams to show up on Google. Sometimes they trick you into buying a fake cryptocurrency. Sometimes they create fake wallets to get your keys and steal your cryptocurrency. Whatever their tactic, your money or your cryptocurrency will end up in a scammer’s hands.

What to Do Instead

Determine what type of crypto wallet works best for your needs before you start looking. If you know someone who is already involved in cryptocurrency, consider asking them for recommendations. They may be able to tell you which wallet they recommend – or if they had a particularly bad experience, which ones to avoid.

If you don’t have anyone who can recommend a crypto wallet, you still shouldn’t Google it. Instead, look for comments, recommendations, and reviews on trusted sites. Lifehacker, NerdWallet, and Forbes all have recommendations. The results that come up on Google might be legitimate, or they could be fake, or they could be fake wallets designed to look almost identical to real ones. By getting your information from a trusted site, it’s much less likely that you’ll end up turning your crypto over to a scammer.

Protect Yourself Online

Let’s face it – there are a lot of risks online. While Google is a great tool for many things, there are some things you shouldn’t Google because the results could be dangerous. So what can you do to keep yourself safe?

The best step you can take is to be aware! Know what dangers are out there and what they look like. If you can spot the trick before you get caught in a cyber-criminal’s trap, you can avoid many of the dangers of the internet. Reading the blog is a great start. You can also listen to the Easy Prey Podcast to go further in-depth on the internet safety information you need to know.

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