Be aware of fake customer service numbers online
You may already be savvy enough to know that tech support scammers often reach out to potential victims by phone or pop up. However, now scammers are finding ways to have you reach out to them.
Many of us do this when we need to look up a phone number. We type the company name into Google, but now there is a new warning from officials advising you to be careful before you call that number.
The days of flipping through a phone book to find the number you need is now a thing of the past. But even if you take the initiative to look online for a number to reach Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon or another big company for help with your account, you have to be careful. The number you're calling might be a fake, and the representative might be a crook.
Jim Winsett, the president of the Chattanooga Better Business Bureau, said this practice is becoming more common. Scammers post fake customer support numbers online, and in some cases, find ways to make their numbers appear at the top of your Google search.
For example, you are having trouble with your account, so you search online for the customer support phone number. Many large companies from Netflix to Amazon have been affected by this con. A quick search turns up what appears to be a legitimate toll-free number (1-888 or 1-844 number). You dial it, and a "representative" answers. This person declares that your account has been hacked.
"Your system has been hacked, and that they need access to your computer to be able to assist you," Winsett said.
Skeptical? The "representative" says they can provide proof that your account was hacked. But first, they need remote access to your computer. Unfortunately, granting a scammer access can open you up to the risk of identity theft. Scam artists can install malware that records passwords or hunts for personal information, such as bank account numbers.
However, according to BBB Scam Tracker reports, this scam appears to be a pretext for selling computer security software. The expensive software, victims report paying between $200 and $900, will do nothing to fix your account, which was never hacked in the first place.
So how can you know if the number you're calling is the real deal?
"Turn back around, and then Google that number again and see if there's been any reviews or any complaints that may be attached to that number," he explained.
The best thing you can do is go directly to the company's website and look for the lock symbol in the address bar, letting you know it's a secure website.
You can also cross verify phone numbers printed on documents to see if they match the ones online.
"If you also have a relationship with them where you receive printed documents with them, always go check to see what that customer support number as well," Winsett added.
No cases have been reported in Chattanooga. However, in some cases, people called the wrong number and scammers fooled callers into purchasing unrelated computer software.
If you've been targeted by this scam or want to help others avoid the same problem, you can report it on the BBB Scam Tracker.
Here is how to protect yourself from tech support scams:
Don't ever give a stranger remote access. Granting someone remote access to your computer permits them to install malware and access your files. Don't do it!
Be careful when searching for support phone numbers. Rather than doing an online search for a support number, use the contact information on the business's website. Also, double check the URL or your bill.
If you've been targeted by this scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience on the BBB Scam Tracker.