Maps Spam

Users are receiving spam notifications through the Google Maps app that asks them to share their location in order to get something for free and no one knows why.

According to reports from numerous users, Android users are receiving Maps push notifications with titles such as "You Have Received a Free Prize from Google", "You Have Received a Free Prize",  "Congratulations for Winning Pixel", and more.  When users click on these notifications, they are then being asked to share their location.

For example, a Reddit post stated:

"Strange thing. Just got a push notif from my Maps app that read "You Have Received a Free Prize from Google [...]", so I figured it was some sort of Google-Play-Rewards-type thing — but once I clicked on it it appeared to be about a user named "You Have Received a Free Prize", with Maps giving me the option to share my location with them. I found the block button and that was that, but has anyone else been subject to this? What's the endgame if a gullible user decides to follow through?"

Maps Notification Spam
Maps Notification Spam

Most users who BleepingComputer spoke to regarding these notifications simply block them.

Some, though, have stated that they thought it was an ad from a nearby shop, so shared their location, but did not receive any other information after doing so. As you can imagine, this is confusing as it is not known what the location sharing is being used for.

One user has emailed me an example of a notification spam that they received through Google Maps on her iPad. Unlike the other notification examples, this one includes an URL promoting a site.

Maps spam notification with an URL
Maps spam notification with an URL

When visiting this URL you will be brought to a scam site promoting free phone cases as long as you input your personal information such as name and address.

Scam site promoting free phone cases
Scam site promoting free phone cases

Reasons for the spam

The above example notification that contains an URL is understandable. They are simply spamming a site.

For the other ones, though, there has been a lot of speculation as to where these notifications are coming from and for what reason. Some think that criminals are using this to check when your not home in order to rob you, others that it's part of the Nearby service, or could be a way to advertise a store's products or other promotion. 

For now, if you receive a Maps push notification asking you to share your location, just block it as you never know who you are sending your location to and for what reason.

You have some theories about this Maps spam? Let us know.

Update: Shortly after posting the article, we were told that iOS users of Google Maps have also received these notifications.

Update 12/6/18 5:02 PM EST: Added example that shows an URL to a scam site offering free iPhone cases after you input your personal information.

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