For years, hackers have relied on emailed attachments, Word docs, and hyperlinks to coerce their victims into installing malicious software. Now, a new threat is circulating widely online, one that relies on a common tool to encourage you to click: Google Docs.

The Google Doc scam arrives in the form of an email, either from someone you don’t know or from a hacked account in your contacts list. The email shares a Google Doc with you, complete with commonplace fonts and graphics. Clicking the button and opening the document, though, is a mistake.

According to internet users who are helping to spread the word about the scam, the email comes from a wide variety of addresses, all targeting the victim in some specific way based on their interests. Some appear to be job offers directly from Google, others are masking as communications from major companies in the recipient’s line of work. At this point, the links could originate from anywhere, and lead anywhere. Check out this real email received by an ITRC employee whose friend had been hacked:


In all types of communication, there are guidelines to follow to keep yourself as safe as you can. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know on social media, or who at least have a high number of mutual friends. In text messages and phone calls, feel free to ignore incoming messages from numbers you don’t recognize; if it’s important, they’ll contact you again with more information. Most important, if you receive an email with a link or an attachment, even if it looks like it’s from someone you know, don’t click. Contact that person in a new email message and verify that the extra document is genuine.

It’s also important that you take an active role in spreading the word about this kind of virus. After all, some of the malicious software that strikes users’ computers is intended to root out their contacts list and send the harmful message to those people as well, including you. By helping others avoid this danger, you just might be saving your own technology in the long run.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.