Sometimes, Google is actually happy to go to court.
The search giant filed a lawsuit in California federal court on Monday against a person who allegedly took money for puppies that were never delivered, and it wants you to know it'll be taking similar action in the future.
The complaint alleges that a person who lives in Cameroon ran a network of websites as part of "multiple international non-delivery scams" that used Google services to communicate or receive payment, particularly for basset hounds and other "adorable puppies."
The websites "exploit[ed] the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting high demand for puppies in the U.S.," Google claims, and in addition to violating the company's terms of service, the puppy operations cost Google "substantial resources in excess of $75,000 to investigate and remediate."
A request for comment to an email address cited in the complaint as being tied to the puppy websites did not immediately yield a response.
That $75,000 sum is, of course, a mere trifle for Google, and there's plenty to be gained from publicly trying to punish alleged international scammers and protect would-be pet owners who fell in love with pictures of dogs they would never receive. Puppies may even outrank apple pie in terms of popular causes, and the number of presumably sympathetic dog parents in the U.S. has literally increased by millions thanks to COVID-19.
Still, Google spokesman José Castañeda told Protocol in an email there would be additional consumer-protection lawsuits in the future, designed to bring "more enforcement and attention to other areas of online fraud and scams that especially impact commonly targeted groups like... seniors and veterans." (One of the people who paid for a puppy and did not receive it appears to have reported her experience through AARP, an organization for Americans age 50 and older.)
Google has also previously sued over botnets and against alleged fraudsters who impersonated the company.
There is, in fact, no scarcity of online fraud — some of it exacerbated by the increased loneliness and time online that have come from the pandemic. In 2021, people lost $770 million in social media scams alone, especially romance hoaxes, according to a recent Federal Trade Commission report. Those figures are way up from prior years, and according to the Better Business Bureau, more than a third of online shopping scam reports in 2021 involved pets.