Even “Geniuses” Can Fall for Scammer Ploys

red-flagIIYesterday a senior citizen customer of mine called me after she had been to her local Apple store. She had taken in an iPad that had an email issue. The Apple Genius (the name used by Apple for their technical support staff) she was assigned to worked on the problem for about 30 minutes and even sought help from other Geniuses for the problem. The Apple employee finally said that the problem was due to her ATT/Yahoo email settings and wrote a phone number down on a piece of paper for AT&T email support and said they would be able to help her.

My customer went home called the number and spoke with Paul Johnson, who let’s just say, didn’t sound like his name was “Paul Johnson”. He connected to her computer and proceeded to show her all kinds of terrible issues that it had, like “Trojan viruses” but not to worry, he could help her. She would need to sign up for a monitoring service with her credit card. My customer had been a little suspicious before, but quelled that suspicion because the Apple lady had given her this number. The request for a credit card was a giant red flag. Thankfully, she declined the scammer’s request and ended his charade.

But the Apple Genius had given her the number! One problem, the phone number was 888-985-8273 and it had come from an internet search for AT&T Email Support. Do not click on any of these results, but a Google internet search of this phone number reveals a smorgasbord of scam choices. A similar Google images search gives you an idea of how prevalent and legitimate looking the scam lures are. If you need to contact support for any product the best practice for locating the proper phone number is to go directly to that company’s website and be confident that it really is their website. Another lesson is that you cannot always trust the information provided by a person from the Apple store, or other retail establishment, even though they may seem like an authority on the subject.

I was angry and completely stunned by what this Apple employee did, as was the manager of the store when I called him with the details. But, this post isn’t about bashing Apple. I am sure their Genius was genuinely trying to help. It demonstrates how prevalent the scammers are and how easy it is to fall into their clutches. When dealing with technology and web searches for information, always be on guard and keep a healthy skepticism. Feel free to contact me if you have a question about a search result, website or a suspicious email.

Below are some links to articles about tech support scams, how to avoid them and what to do if you fall victim to one.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0346-tech-support-scams

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/windows-tech-support-scam/

http://www.consumerreports.org/money/beware-tech-support-scams-online/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/08/07/what-seniors-and-their-children-need-to-know-about-tech-support-scams/#4e2df8dd2631

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