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How to Avoid “Security Alert” and “Customer Service” Scams

September 29, 2020

online scamsA friend of ours subscribes to a number of professional email newsletters. The other day he received what he thought was a routine tip sheet. But this one was different. The email subject line, “I was scammed” told the story. The newsletter’s author had been taken for a ride by a security alert scam.

She was angry and embarrassed, calling her scammer a “Cyber-Rapist.” She had received an “alert” message from what she thought was Amazon. She’s a copywriter working with Amazon on a marketing book. So the security alert was plausible. Maybe there was a problem with her book orders.

She called the number on her cell and got “Mike” on the line. He had a thick foreign accent, which should have been a red flag. But she told herself not to be racist. She listened hard and followed “Mike’s” soothing instructions.

It turns out that he got access to her computer for over 20 minutes. He installed a “dummy order” for a Google Play gift card. While all this was going on, our expert’s husband called her cell and told her it was a scam. Her heart sank. She felt nauseous as she slammed the phone down. Her identity had been stolen.

She called her I.T. firm. She complemented them on protecting her data from thieves getting in the back door. But then told them she had just let them in the front door!! She changed all her passwords and got new credit cards. It was a royal pain.

The I.T. people told her that his has been happening all the time.

For example, here’s a fake security alert our friend received on his cell just the other day, “Your ChaseR account has been suspended due to security reasons. Verify online now: [the scammer’s link]” If you get this kind of notice, don’t click on it. Report it as a scam or at least delete it immediately.

Here’s another scam that’s going around now…

Customer Service Scams

Unlike a security alert scam, you initiate this swindle by searching Google for product support or technical help. Say you have a problem with the battery on your new electric lawnmower. It isn’t holding a charge. Instead of calling the number on the directions you got with the mower, which you can’t find at the moment, you Google search the company for the customer service phone number.

Thing is, scammers are buying fake ads. They have just the right wording to lure the unsuspecting into calling. Search engine companies root out these ads, but even if they’re up for a short time, you could be a victim.

If you call the shady number you may get a friendly voice asking to confirm your credit card number. Then they’ll pretend to confirm your identity by having you give up your social security number. You end up giving your credit card number to a thief. And/or have your identity stolen.

How to Prevent These Online Scams

When it comes to security alerts, the best advice we can offer is don’t click on them. Whether it’s a link or phone number, stay away from the alert. If you think it might be real, call the institution directly. Use the number on the correspondence you get from them or their website.

Either way, don’t give anyone remote access to your computer! Not like our copywriting friend above.

With customer service scams, go directly to the company website for the service phone number. Or check the directions included with the product. And don’t search or ask Alexa or Siri to find customer service information.

Our clients are online now more than ever. So be skeptical of searches, links, emails, and any solicitation you’re not absolutely sure of.

When it comes to the world wide web, stay safe out there!

Until next time,
Your SZW Team

SZW Insurance is your Utica area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here. In Westchester County call Zak Scalzo at 914.246.0315 or email at zaks@szwinsurance.com.