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Avoid being scammed by the fake "Google Membership Rewards" program

Also Known As: Google Membership Rewards pop-up
Damage level: Medium

What is "Google Membership Rewards"?

"Google Membership Rewards" is a scam presented as a prize raffle. The scheme claims that, should users select the correct answers to the following multi-choice questions, they will win a prize worth up to US$1099 (USD).

The fraudulent gift giveaway is supposedly a show of gratitude for users' support of Google products and services. Note that "Google Membership Rewards" is in no way associated with Google LLC, and all of the information provided by it is false.

Online scams are promoted on various untrusted websites, which users rarely access intentionally. Most enter these pages via mistyped URLs, redirects caused by intrusive advertisements, and installed Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs).

Google Membership Rewards scam

The "Google Membership Rewards" scam congratulates users for allegedly being selected as winners of Google gifts. The scheme claims that ten users are chosen once a day to win a prize. The gift is guaranteed and only available for the selected user.

The fake giveaway is stated to be a "thank you" for users' continued support of Google products/services. The scam then makes statements that contradict its previous claims. It informs users that they can win the prize (worth up to US$1099) if they correctly answer the following four questions.

The scheme also urges them to act immediately, since the number of (nonexistent) prizes is limited. As mentioned, "Google Membership Rewards" is fake and cannot be trusted. By trusting this scam, users can experience a wide variety of serious problems.

The sole purpose of scams is to generate profit for their designers, yet how they make revenue differs. Fake prize giveaways often ask victims to make relatively small monetary transactions (compared to the supposed gift).

For example, the scheme may ask users to pay shipping, storage, transaction, subscription, registration, and similar bogus fees. Hoax raffles can operate in tandem with phishing scams, which aim to extract sensitive and personal information.

Data of interest includes: various account log-in credentials (i.e., usernames and passwords), names, addresses, telephone numbers, emails, banking account details, credit card numbers, etc.

The gathered data can then be sold to third-parties (potentially, cyber criminals), used to further personalized scams, make fraudulent transactions, online purchases, and so on.

To summarize, trusting the "Google Membership Rewards" scheme can lead to severe privacy issues, financial losses, identity theft, and other problems.

Potentially unwanted applications can be responsible for rogue redirects to misleading, deceptive, and malicious sites (e.g., ones running the "Google Membership Rewards" scam). These apps usually seem legitimate and offer "useful" features, which are seldom operational.

Furthermore, unwanted software can have dangerous functions, deployed in different combinations. Adware-type PUAs deliver intrusive advertisement campaigns. The delivered pop-ups, banners, coupons, and other ads diminish the browsing experience and endanger device/user safety.

Once clicked, intrusive ads redirect to untrusted/dangerous websites, and some can stealthily download/install software. Other PUAs called browser hijackers operate by modifying browsers and limiting/denying access to their settings in order to promote bogus search engines.

The promoted web searchers typically cannot provide search results, and so they redirect to Yahoo, Bing, Google, and other genuine search engines.

Most PUAs can track data. They monitor browsing activity (browsing and search engine histories) and collect vulnerable information extracted from it (IP addresses, geolocations, and personally identifiable details). PUA developers monetize the collected data by sharing it with and/or selling it to third-parties.

Therefore, remove all suspect applications and browser extensions/plug-ins without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name Google Membership Rewards pop-up
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Users can win a fake prize by answering multi-choice questions correctly.
Disguise Scam is disguised as a prize giveaway created by Google.
Related Domains nature38standwould[.]live
Detection Names (nature38standwould[.]live) Google Safebrowsing (Phishing), Kaspersky (Malware), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Symptoms Fake error messages, fake system warnings, pop-up errors, hoax computer scan.
Distribution methods Compromised websites, rogue online pop-up ads, potentially unwanted applications.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft, possible malware infections.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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"Chrome search contest 2021", "Spin The Wheel", "Win The New iPhone 12", "You've made the 9.68-billionth search" - are some examples of schemes akin to "Google Membership Rewards".

The internet is full of misleading and deceptive content designed to generate revenue at users' expense. Popular scam models are: fake prize giveaways, "unbelievable" deals and offers, warnings that the system is infected or at risk, alerts that a piece of software is outdated or missing, and so on.

Regardless of what these schemes claim, offer, promise, request, or demand, they cannot be trusted. Due to the widespread nature of online scams, exercise caution when browsing.

How did potentially unwanted applications install on my computer?

People often download and install unwanted apps inadvertently via deceptive advertisements - they click ads that cause unwanted downloads/installations by executing certain scripts.

Unwanted downloads and installations also occur during download/installation of other programs. I.e., when PUAs are included into the set-ups as 'extra offers'. This PUA distribution method of PUAs is called "bundling".

Typically, offers to download and install these additional apps can be declined via "Custom", "Advanced" or other settings, or by unticking certain checkboxes within the set-ups. When users download and install programs without making these checks and changes, they often allow PUAs to infiltrate.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications

You are advised to research all software before download/installation. Use only official and verified download channels. Unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule), and other third party downloaders commonly offer harmful and bundled content, and are therefore untrusted and should be avoided.

When downloading/installing, read the terms, study all possible options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings and opt-out of additional apps, tools, features, and so on.

Intrusive advertisements typically seem legitimate, however, they can redirect to dubious and malicious sites (e.g. gambling, pornography, adult-dating, and many others). If you encounter ads or redirects of this kind, inspect the system and remove all dubious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins immediately.

Installed programs must be activated and updated with tools or implemented functions that are provided by the official developers. No other third party, unofficial tools should be used.

Note that it is illegal to activate licensed software with ‘cracking’ tools. Files and programs should be downloaded from official websites and via direct download links. Avoid third party installers and the tools/sources mentioned above.

Do not open website links or files in irrelevant emails that are received from unknown, suspicious addresses. These bogus emails are often disguised as official and important. Regularly, scan your computer with reputable, up-to-date antivirus or anti-spyware software.

If your computer is already infected with PUAs, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate them.

Text presented in the "Google Membership Rewards" scam:

Google Membership Rewards
Congratulations undefined User! Your IP has Won (1) Google Gift!
March 31 2021
Every we randomly selected 10 lucky users, once a day to receive a gift (Prize Guaranteed!) from Google. This gift is exclusively and ONLY for undefined undefined! This is just our way to thank you for your continuous support of our product and services.
You have been selected to win a gift worth up to $1,099.00 if you answer the next 4 questions correctly.

 

ACT NOW! 9 other users have received this invitation with only 5 prizes available to win.

 

You have a limited time to answer the questions before someone else takes over your spot. Good luck!

The appearance of the "Google Membership Rewards" pop-up scam (GIF):

Appearance of Google Membership Rewards scam (GIF)

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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.

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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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