[ALERT] Customer Service Impostors
A concerned reader wrote to ask if she had been scammed. If you're having trouble finding the customer service or tech support phone number for a large company, there's a reason for that. And scammers are taking advantage in clever ways. Read on for the details of the Customer Service Imposter scam...
Watch Out for Fake Tech Support Numbers
Just a few days ago I got this message: “Hi Bob, I have a question that I hope you can answer. I was locked out of Facebook, and after 48 hours I tried to find a way to contact them for an appeal. Couldn't find any. I Googled the problem and found a toll-free phone number that stated they were Facebook Customer Service. While on the phone with them, they opened a remote session. They did a scan on all my devices and said I was infected with 'the KOOBFACE worm' which they could eliminate. So, I bought their malware fix for $329. Now I'm worried. Was I scammed? If so, what recourse do I have?”
Sadly, the answer to your first question is yes, you certainly were scammed. Facebook does not have a customer service phone number, nor does the company sell anti-malware solutions. I'm sure this is not the number you called, but you may see search listings that claim 650-543-4800 is Facebook’s “customer support” number. It’s actually the main number of Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, CA. If you call that number you will first have to press 1 for Facebook, then 1 again for “customer support” - which gives you a recorded message from “User Operations” saying "Unfortunately we don’t provide phone support at this time."
What they really mean is that they don’t provide phone support, ever, and they never will. Big companies don't want to pay people to talk to customers on the phone. Human labor is expensive. This is especially true for companies that provide free services. You're just not worth the trouble if you're not a paying customer. Even companies that take your money for goods and services would much prefer that you use an automated online method for checking on your orders, tracking deliveries, or arranging a return.
Tech support scammers use fear and manufactured urgency to persuade people to part with their money. The person who contacted me with the story above told me that she realized soon after the transaction that the amount she paid was a red flag in and of itself. Legitimate anti-malware suites typically cost on the order of $50.
As for getting that (ouch!) $329 back, I suggested filing a fraud report and chargeback with the credit card company or bank. It is equally certain that the scammers did not eliminate any malware from her "devices," as they claimed to do. Instead, they probably installed some. I urged her to run System Restore to return her computer to the state it was in prior to the incident, and then to download MalwareBytes Anti-Malware and run a full system scan for any pesky malware that might remain.
I don't know what anti-virus software she may have already had, but a problem like this could have been avoided with a security product like PC-Matic, which uses a whitelist approach. If a program is not on their list of "known good" executables, it will be blocked.
You're Not Alone
You are not the only victim of this “wrong phone number” variety of customer support scam. The Better Business Bureau receives many complaints annually about toll-free “support lines” that are not what they claim to be. Nor is Facebook the only company these scammers impersonate.
Google, like Facebook, has no support phone number for ordinary users to call. That plays right into the hands of scammers who know exactly what people do when they run into problems with an online product or service:
- They scour the company’s web site for a phone number, in vain.
- Frustrated, they search for the company’s name plus “technical support,” “customer service” or some similar search term.
- Impatient, they dial the first toll-free number that seems to be the support line they want; but it isn’t. The phone number is answered by scammers.
Using one pretext or another, the scammers persuade a victim to allow them remote access to the victim’s computer. They’ll patiently talk you step-by-step through the process of enabling remote access, if necessary. Often this involves downloading and running a screen-sharing program that gives them direct access to everything on your computer.
It’s important to remember: NEVER give a stranger remote access to any of your devices! A scammer with remote access can install malware, disable anti-malware software, change app permissions, steal, encrypt, or delete data, and work other mischief.
If some “support rep” asks for remote access, hang up and don’t call back.
Extinct Viruses and Account Recovery Tools
The Koobface worm, by the way, is pretty much dead. First discovered in 2008, Koobface spread rapidly across Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks via fake private messages that provided a link to a non-existent video. Victims who clicked the link were prompted to download and install a fake Flash plugin update. In fact, they installed Koobface.
Once installed, Koobface snooped around the victim’s PC for passwords, financial account numbers, and other things bad guys can sell, then uploaded such tidbits to a command-and-control server. Koobface also communicated with infected peers, and it could install any other malware its masters chose to send it. Koobface has been all but eradicated by anti-malware suites, but its name is still used to strike fear into the hearts of potential scam victims.
I mentioned earlier why companies with millions (or billions) of customers don't want to provide live human phone support. Instead they provide a web page that allows users who are locked out of their accounts to regain access. Facebook users can visit this Facebook account recovery page and get a code sent to their email or mobile phone, which will enable them to regain access. If you don't have access to your email or phone, Facebook also has a Trusted Contacts option, which lets you choose 3 to 5 friends who can send you a recovery code.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 26 Dec 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [ALERT] Customer Service Impostors (Posted: 26 Dec 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved