Most are aware of the common phone scam where a stranger calls you at home to tell you you’ve won something, and therefore need to give them your social security number and/or credit card information. Fewer people are aware of a relatively new phone scam where you do a search on Google for “tech support phone number” for a large company that rarely, if ever, provides phone support to their customers – companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google themselves. In situations where a customer cannot find a solution to a problem with these larger companies, they can become so desperate to reach a live person (and unable to find an actual phone number on the respective company’s website); they do a separate search on Google.
As an example, imagine you’re at work and trying to get a hold of someone to help you with a technical issue on Google itself, but cannot find a phone number on their website to reach a live person. After searching for a lengthy period of time, you give up and do a separate search on Google for “tech support phone number for Google”. An 800 number instantly appears in your search queue, and you are relieved to finally have the ability to reach someone. You dial the number and a live person answers immediately.
Amazed and delighted that there was no wait time, no phone tree, no automatic prompts or music to listen to, you’re eager to share your issue with the “tech support” person on the other side of the call. It’s challenging to communicate with that person because the customer service has been farmed oversees, but you don’t care at this point; you’re suffering from a painful technical issue and were able to reach someone live! So, when the person starts asking you what your full name and email are, you openly share this information with them. It’s when they tell you that you need to purchase something in order to solve your technical woe, you become suspicious, but again, are desperate and got this phone number doing a Google search, so it’s got to be legitimate, right? In the end, do you give the person your credit card information to “solve the problem” or not?
I wish I could say this scenario is hypothetical, but it’s not. It happened to one of our customers, and we were able to help them identify that it was a scam before they disclosed their financial information to the scammers.
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How the scammers are doing it
This scheme is a form of “Black Hat SEO” where scammers will tag fraudulent phone numbers with key word searches they know people will use to find the phone numbers. SEO stands for search engine optimization and the “black hat” part, as described on webopedia, “refers to the use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience, and usually does not obey search engines guidelines. Examples of this include keyword stuffing, invisible text, doorway pages, adding unrelated keywords to the page content or page swapping (changing the webpage entirely after it has been ranked by search engines).”
What fake “tech support” numbers come up on Google
Here is a list of companies that current scammers say they represent:
To see monthly published lists of fraudulent phone numbers, visit www.scammer.info.
How to avoid the scams
Only get tech support phone numbers directly from a company’s website. For companies as large as Google, Facebook and Amazon, it’s more common for them to only offer support via online tutorials, FAQ’s and the like. The closest you’re likely to get to a live person is via an IM Chat (Instant Messaging).
What to do if you are scammed
Report the incident immediately (with documentation if possible) to the Federal Trade Commission. Learn more about the the Federal Trade Commission or submit a claim with them directly.
GTB can help safeguard your company
For the past twenty five years, GTB has provided a variety of Internet Security Services, managed Business Phone Solutions and High Speed Internet. Headquartered in Baltimore, we provide local customer care to companies in Maryland, DC and Northern VA. Rather than find multiple providers for each service, we also provide a “one- stop- shop” experience that includes all technology services required to run your company with increased value and efficiency.
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