RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If your favorite program isn't working, or something is wrong with your social media account, be careful - scammers are targeting customer service numbers, and they are popping up in Google searches.
When Julia Roberts' favorite financial software program acted up, she did what a lot of us do when we need help: she turned to Google.
"A number came up right away. A logo came up," said Roberts.
She called what she thought was customer support. She 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,'" added Roberts.
She looked and realized the URL did not match the company she thought she was calling. That's 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.
"Remember, scam artists are the only criminals we call 'artists,' and they know that we are vulnerable here," says Weisman of Scamicide.com.
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 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," adds Weisman.
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?
"They had banned my IP address," said Roberts.
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."
Look for 'HTTPS' at the start of any web address you are clicking on. Update your computer software often.
Be careful when looking up phone numbers online. Be sure you are on the correct site. If something seems off in a phone call - trust your gut.
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