How to spot scams like Google Customer Reward Program

Also Known As: Google Customer Reward Program scam
Damage level: Medium

What kind of scam is Google Customer Reward Program?

"Google Customer Reward Program" is a fake pop-up message stating that the visitor is lucky and has a chance to win a major prize. The message is displayed by various deceptive websites that users often visit inadvertently - they are redirected by intrusive advertisements (delivered by other rogue sites) or questionable programs.

Research shows that the aforementioned programs infiltrate systems without users' consent. In addition to causing redirects, they deliver intrusive ads and gather sensitive information.

Screenshot of the survey that the user must complete to claim the "prize":

Google Customer Reward Program scam

More about the Google Customer Reward Program scam

The message essentially states that the user is "today's lucky visitor" and has a chance to win a $1000 gift card, iPhone X, or other useful prize. To receive the prize, however, user are encouraged to first complete a survey. This is a scam. Cyber criminals generate revenue by tricking gullible users into completing random surveys and providing nothing in return.

Immediately after completing the "Google Customer Reward Program" survey, users are redirected to another deceptive website, which also contains a survey. Therefore, if you have somehow arrived at the "Google Customer Reward Program" website, you should immediately close it.

Note, however, that some rogue sites employ scripts that prevent users from closing browsing tabs/windows. In these case, close the browser using Task Manager or simply reboot the system. After re-running the browser, do not restore the previous session, otherwise you will end up visiting the deceptive site again.

More about apps promoting scams

Potentially unwanted programs deliver coupon, banner, pop-up, and other similar ads. To achieve this, developers employ tools that enable placement of third party graphical content on any site (e.g., "virtual layers"). Therefore, deployed ads often conceal underlying content, thereby significantly diminishing the browsing experience.

Furthermore, these advertisements might redirect to malicious websites and execute scripts that download and install malware. Therefore, even a single accidental click can result in high-risk computer infections. Unwanted programs are also likely to gather information relating to browsing activity.

Collected data (IP addresses, website URLs visited, pages viewed, search queries, etc.) usually includes personal information that developers share with third parties (potentially, cyber criminals). These people generate revenue by misusing private information.

Therefore, data tracking can lead to serious privacy issues or even identity theft. These are the main reasons why potentially unwanted programs must be eliminated immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name Google Customer Reward Program scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Symptoms Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of one's computer.
Distribution methods Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Similar scams in general

There are hundreds of deceptive messages similar to "Google Customer Reward Program". The list of examples includes Your Computer Has Been Locked To Prevent Damage, Windows Product Key Expired, You Are Our Winner Today!, and many others. Most claim that system is infected, missing files, or damaged in other similar ways.

Rather than delivering surveys, these messages encourage users to call fake tech support (paid services) or download fake anti-virus/anti-spyware suites (in-app purchases). All potentially unwanted programs are very similar.

By offering many "useful features", they attempt to give the impression of legitimacy, however, rather than giving any real value for regular users, shady apps cause unwanted redirects and gather sensitive information.

How did potentially unwanted programs install on my computer?

Some of these programs have official download websites, however, due to the lack of knowledge and careless behavior of many users, these porgrams often infiltrate systems without consent. Research shows that developers proliferate them using intrusive advertising and "bundling" methods (stealth installation of unwanted apps together with regular software).

They hide "bundled" apps within "Advanced/Custom" settings or other sections of the download/installation processes. Furthermore, many users rush these processes and skip steps. In addition, they click various ads without understanding the possible consequences.

This behavior can lead to inadvertent installation of unwanted apps - users expose their systems to risk of various infections and compromise their privacy.

How to avoid installation of unwanted applications?

To prevent system infiltration by such apps, be very cautious when downloading/installing software and browsing the Internet in general. Carefully analyze each window of the download/installation dialogs, opt-out of all additionally-included programs, and decline offers to download/install them. Download your software from official sites only, using direct download links.

Third party downloaders/installers are often monetized using the "bundling" method, and thus these tools should never be used. Note that intrusive ads typically seem legitimate, but once clicked, they redirect to dubious websites (gambling, adult dating, pornography, and so on).

If you experience these redirects, eliminate all suspicious applications and browser plug-ins. If your computer is already infected with rogue apps, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate them.

Text presented in "Google Customer Reward Program" scam:

Google Customer reward program
We wish to thank you for the long use of a services from Google!
Every Monday we randomly select several users to take a short survey. In return, we offer them the chance to receive a valuable gift from our sponsors. This survey allows us to better understand users and make our products better. It will not take mew than 30 seconds of your time.
You can win the new Samsung Galaxy S9, Movie Card Streaming or iPad Pro. All you need to do to receive a gift is to answer the following 8 questions.
Remember: 10 randomly selected users have received this invitation. The number of gifts is limited.
You have 4 minutes to answer the following questions before we give your gift to another happy user. Good Luck!

Screenshot of pop-up displayed before the survey:

Google Customer Reward Program pop-up

Screenshot of survey website (to which users are redirected after completing the "Google Customer Reward Program" survey):

Google Customer Reward Program redirecting users to another rogue site

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How to identify a pop-up scam?

Pop-up windows with various fake messages are a common type of lures cybercriminals use. They collect sensitive personal data, trick Internet users into calling fake tech support numbers, subscribe to useless online services, invest in shady cryptocurrency schemes, etc.

While in the majority of cases these pop-ups don't infect users' devices with malware, they can cause direct monetary loss or could result in identity theft.

Cybercriminals strive to create their rogue pop-up windows to look trustworthy, however, scams typically have the following characteristics:

  • Spelling mistakes and non-professional images - Closely inspect the information displayed in a pop-up. Spelling mistakes and unprofessional images could be a sign of a scam.
  • Sense of urgency - Countdown timer with a couple of minutes on it, asking you to enter your personal information or subscribe to some online service.
  • Statements that you won something - If you haven't participated in a lottery, online competition, etc., and you see a pop-up window stating that you won.
  • Computer or mobile device scan - A pop-up window that scans your device and informs of detected issues - is undoubtedly a scam; webpages cannot perform such actions.
  • Exclusivity - Pop-up windows stating that only you are given secret access to a financial scheme that can quickly make you rich.

Example of a pop-up scam:

Example of a pop-up scam

How do pop-up scams work?

Cybercriminals and deceptive marketers usually use various advertising networks, search engine poisoning techniques, and shady websites to generate traffic to their pop-ups. Users land on their online lures after clicking on fake download buttons, using a torrent website, or simply clicking on an Internet search engine result.

Based on users' location and device information, they are presented with a scam pop-up. Lures presented in such pop-ups range from get-rich-quick schemes to fake virus scans.

How to remove fake pop-ups?

In most cases, pop-up scams do not infect users' devices with malware. If you encountered a scam pop-up, simply closing it should be enough. In some cases scam, pop-ups may be hard to close; in such cases - close your Internet browser and restart it.

In extremely rare cases, you might need to reset your Internet browser. For this, use our instructions explaining how to reset Internet browser settings.

How to prevent fake pop-ups?

To prevent seeing pop-up scams, you should visit only reputable websites. Torrent, Crack, free online movie streaming, YouTube video download, and other websites of similar reputation commonly redirect Internet users to pop-up scams.

To minimize the risk of encountering pop-up scams, you should keep your Internet browsers up-to-date and use reputable anti-malware application. For this purpose, we recommend Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

What to do if you fell for a pop-up scam?

This depends on the type of scam that you fell for. Most commonly, pop-up scams try to trick users into sending money, giving away personal information, or giving access to one's device.

  • If you sent money to scammers: You should contact your financial institution and explain that you were scammed. If informed promptly, there's a chance to get your money back.
  • If you gave away your personal information: You should change your passwords and enable two-factor authentication in all online services that you use. Visit Federal Trade Commission to report identity theft and get personalized recovery steps.
  • If you let scammers connect to your device: You should scan your computer with reputable anti-malware (we recommend Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows) - cyber criminals could have planted trojans, keyloggers, and other malware, don't use your computer until removing possible threats.
  • Help other Internet users: report Internet scams to Federal Trade Commission.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a pop-up scam?

It is a deceptive message/notification (for example, a fake system warning) designed to trick unsuspecting users into performing certain actions.

What is the purpose of a pop-up scam?

The purpose of such scams is to trick users into providing sensitive information, downloading (and executing) malware, providing remote access to computers, and (or) transferring money.

Why do I encounter fake pop-ups?

Pop-up scams are delivered by untrustworthy web pages. It is very uncommon for such pages to be visited intentionally. In most cases, they are opened by present malicious applications or websites that use questionable advertising networks.

Will Combo Cleaner protect me from pop-up scams?

Combo Cleaner can scan every visited website and detect malicious pages, including pages that display pop-up scams. Combo Cleaner warns users immediately and restricts access to such pages.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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