Recently, I’ve noticed that I am receiving at least one message a week from Google Earth and the latest this morning was thanking me on the GE anniversary.
Yesterday GE celebrated reaching the milestone of 1 billion downloads, not an anniversary.
All of the mail come from an address I would doubt very much has anything to do with Google, such as firstname.lastname@example.org via m182.xmail03.com.
There is also usually a ‘handwritten’ note, alongside a verification code for you to go along and download the software.
Which begs the question, why are they thanking me if they know I don’t already have GE?
It is of course spam, and the link takes you to a site which looks reasonably authentic, but if you scroll to the bottom, it tells you in small print that the site has no affiliation with Google Earth.
Whilst I didn’t click through the options to go ahead and fill in my personal details in order to download GE (or whatever they are trying to get me to), a quick Google reveals that those who do are asked to pay for the software.
One surfer reports that they are initially asked to pay $56, which is then reduced by 50% when the person attempts to close the window.
I reported this as spam some weeks ago to Gmail, ironically, but the messages continue to appear in my inbox.
Presumably this is because the email addresses and subject lines frequently change.
I only clicked through on the email today as it’s annoying me now, it’s very persistent and I wanted to check it out for the possibility that it was worth issuing a warning.
And a warning is certainly worthwhile, as this isn’t just spam but a financial scam, Google Earth is free. The small print claims that the software they are offering is an add-on for GE which will “enhance the Google Earth Experience”.
It seems that anyone who falls for this will be paying for the add-on, as well as membership to the site.
The terms and conditions of the site, which calls itself “instant-access-downloads” state that the software downloaded is sold “as is” and they do not provide any guarantees pertaining to the software.
Nor are they to be held liable for “any damages, claims or costs whatsoever or any consequential, indirect, incidental damages, or any lost profits or lost savings.”
So yes, it’s a scam, with the possibility of malware infection should you download their dodgy add-on software.
The emails themselves are quite obviously not from Google, the site is a little better set up in that it uses GE logos.
If you receive an email that you think is from a bank or GE, or any big company and you’re not sure, check the email address first.
It’s very unlikely that legitimate companies use a generic or unknown email address, they have their own domain.
Should curiosity get the better of you and the deal sounds a least worth a look, then check the URL to see if it matches the company – if in doubt, Google the company and check out their real site to see if the address matches.
However, be aware that clicking through on this kind of scam could lead you to a site infected with malware.
The most sensible thing to do all round is to bin the email and report it as spam, something which I am about to do (once again) now.