You might consider yourself a tech-savvy individual who would never fall for an online scam. You regularly mark suspicious email messages as spam, and you never click anything that doesn’t seem legitimate.
Who do you think is the most vulnerable to online scams? Tap or click here to find out which age group keeps falling for them.
But you don’t need to do any unusual browsing to stumble across a scam. You may know not to Google something like “free Amazon gift card,” but what if you need help with your Prime account? Just search for customer service, right? Wrong. The best way to find help is to go to the source. Read on for ways to get what you need without the risks.
1. Customer service numbers
It’s not always easy to get some of the biggest tech companies on the phone. Login to your Prime account, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a phone number to contact. At best you can have them call you.
Amazon prefers to handle things through an online chat, which you can find by going to Customer Service > Need More Help > Contact Us > Start Chatting Now. From this page, you can also click the We can call you link to set up a phone call. Tap or click here for more details on contacting Amazon.
Apple provides a phone number depending on your region. Get Apple’s customer service phone numbers for the U.S. and Canada here.
As a rule, you shouldn’t Google customer service numbers. Even the topmost results can lead you to fake phone numbers, where someone will ask you for personal information, including credit card numbers.
You may also come across a malicious link that will infect your computer with malware. If you want to contact a company, go to its official page and find the information there.
2. Tech support
When things go wrong with your electronics, it’s understandable to lose your cool. You could be in the middle of a project and worry about losing important data. In a panic, you start searching online for tech support and click on the first official-looking result. Don’t do it. This could make your problems much worse.
Scammers can easily create spoofed websites that look like the real thing. You’ll be faced with a phony phone number where they try to get payment out of you in return for handling your tech problems. In reality, they aren’t fixing anything. They’re just ripping you off.
Always find tech support links and phone numbers through official websites. Whether it’s Microsoft, Samsung or Sony, you will find what you need through their sites. And we can’t stress this enough, but none of these companies, or any others for that matter, will ever contact you to tell you there’s a problem with your device.
If you receive a call or email saying that your computer is infected or your phone has a bug, ignore it. The same goes for online tech support pop-ups containing a contact number. Those are fake and should be ignored.
3. Financial services and apps
Thanks to the internet, we don’t need to leave the house to do our banking or pay for services. You are always at some risk when you share personal information online, but it can worsen when your finances are involved.
Payment apps like Venmo, Zelle and PayPal make it easy to send money to a business or friend. You need to be extra careful when using these apps, however. One Cash App user recently got an alert that something was wrong with her account.
She searched for Cash App’s customer service number and called the result. The person she spoke to had her download an app, which gave him access to her account. He robbed her blind. Tap or click here for more cases like this and information on how to avoid them.
Just as you should for customer service or tech support, use the company’s official website or app to get the contact information you need. Some companies, like Cash App, don’t even have a customer service number.
Take the same precautions with your banking activity. Check the back of your credit and debit cards for official phone numbers.
4. Government programs
The pandemic has been rough on everyone, and you may be anxious to find out when you will be receiving some help. We have seen the stimulus program in action and know that the amount of time varies from person to person for receiving a check. Unsurprisingly, scammers are just waiting for you to search for something like “Where is my stimulus check?”
Though Google claims to be fighting against scammers during the pandemic, researchers at the Tech Transparency Project easily found fraudulent ads. Stimulus check ads direct users to sites that request payment or install malware onto victim’s devices. If you need more information on your stimulus check or tax relief, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus.
5. Trade professionals
In the olden times, before the internet, you turned to the phone book when you needed to hire someone to paint your house, install your new washer/dryer or fix your sink. Now you can hop on Google, search for a plumber or electrician and set something up. Not so fast.
Just because a result is at the top of your Google search, it doesn’t mean the person/company is reputable. Before you give any information or pick up the phone, check out a review site such as Angie’s List or Yelp. Not only can you see if a business is legitimate, but you can find help without having to do a Google search.
There’s an app for everything, but not all apps are safe. When you download a program from a third-party app store, you are opening your device to potentially malicious software. Even if the app doesn’t negatively affect your phone or tablet, you could be feeding it personal information when creating an account.
Stay away from third-party app stores and stick with the Apple App Store and Google Play Store to search for legitimate apps. While malicious apps will sometimes make their way into official app stores, they have stronger vetting processes, so you have a fighting chance.
7. Coupon codes
We all want to save money, especially during this difficult time. Coupon codes are a convenient way to save a little bit here and there, but they do carry some risk.
Let’s say you Google search for a coupon code and find one that promises a significant deal, such as 50% off your purchase. You click the link and are taken to a page that asks for your personal information in exchange for the coupon. There’s your red flag.
If you need coupon codes, check the company site itself for promos. You can also use a service like Honey, which does all the work for you to find and apply coupons. Tap or click here to find out how to save money with Honey.