One of my favorite bits of advice regarding suspicious emails is to encourage the recipient to pick up the phone and call the company that supposedly sent the email to see if it’s legitimate. Unfortunately that advice isn’t as valuable as it once was. Cybercriminals have broadened their repetoire to include fake customer support numbers for popular internet services, such as Netflix. This particular scam relies on a very common advertising vehicle wherein companies can buy ads that look very much like the top search result in both Google and Bing searches. Potential victims, using a search engine to find the customer support number for Netflix are shown ads with fake customer support numbers, and many searchers mistake the ad for the legitimate search result. The phone call to the phoney help desk quick escalates into the customers computer being “infected” with fake viruses, and soon followed by demands for cash to clean up the compromised computer.
What this means for you:
The internet veterans among you know how to tell the advertisements from the actual search results on Google and Bing, but there are just as many who do not realize there is a difference. This particular scam counts on it, on top of victimizing people who are already in some form of technology distress. If you count yourself among the search-engine savvy, make sure you educate those close to you on how to separate the ads from the search results, as well as showing them how to find the right support phone numbers for important services they use. This may be particularly useful to aging family members who are targeted specifically because of their neophyte technology tendencies and trusting nature towards phone technicians who sound like they know what they are doing.
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