Beware scams for online customer service support
Your software is spazzing out. Or your social media service is being anything but social. You need help—stat.
You head to the website, but finding a customer service number can be harder than playing “Where’s Waldo?” What do you do? If you’re like many people, you simply jump on a search engine to find the help number. Everything’s available on the internet, right? Experts say it can be a case of searcher beware.
Just ask SEO specialist Julia Roberts. When her favorite financial software program acted up, she did what she usually does when she needs help: “…Google the company name and ‘customer support.’ And when I did,” she says, “a number came up right away. A logo came up.”
She called and says a knowledgeable person took over her computer screen and fixed her problem. All was good until, she says, she was almost talked into a $460 customer service contract. “I was literally reaching for my wallet to get my credit card out when I just stopped and said, ‘Something’s not right.’”
Roberts looked and realized the URL did not match the company she thought she was calling, which can be a major red flag, according to expert Steve Weisman.
While some companies may be legit third parties, Weisman says consumers need to be careful when searching for numbers online.
He stresses, “Remember, scam artists are the only criminals we call ‘artists’, and they know that we are vulnerable here.”
Vulnerable, says Weisman, because some businesses have either hard to find or no customer service numbers on their websites. Or people simply look for numbers through search engines.
Weisman says… scammers know that. “So, what they’re going to do,” he says, “is they’re going to manipulate the algorithms that are used by search engines, so that when you look for a customer service number they are going to come up.”
Roberts says she hung up and contacted the software’s real customer support number who told her the online helpers were not currently authorized for company support. When she tried to go back and check that URL again? She says she was shocked to find, “I went back to it and they had banned my IP address.”
Weisman says many times the main goal is to take your personal information or money. He says you should always look up at the URL, like Julia did, and check a domain ownership site.
Roberts says she considers herself internet savvy, but now knows: “You have a false sense of security when you put in a company’s name and ‘customer service’ that that will be the company you’re looking for.”
We called the support number Julia stumbled upon online. The representatives insisted they were authorized resellers of the software Julia uses. We called the software company ourselves. The agent confirmed the site is not currently an active reseller and is not authorized to have the company’s logo on its site.
Even if the company had been an authorized reseller, Julia says they let her believe she was talking to the software company, and that they were trying to sell her a service contract she didn’t need.