Home / Money / Personal Finance /  Google search for a customer care number could cost you dear

We’ve all resorted to a Google search to look up the contact or customer care number of a store or service at some point. It is a quick and easy way to find information, and most of us trust the details blindly. But according to newspaper reports, Priyanka Khatal from Navi Mumbai ended up losing 1.05 lakh to a fraud by doing just that.

Khatal was trying to find the contact of a courier service and used a number she found on Google. The person who answered her call asked her to transfer 5 to his account as a test transaction, but soon after, several unauthorized transactions were made from her account and she ended up losing her savings.

There have been a slew of such incidents where fraudsters used a fake phone number listed on Google to scam people. We tell you how to protect yourself from this brand of fraud.

How it works

In Khatal’s case, she was sent a link to an online form, and the individual posing as a representative of the courier company asked her to fill in her details, including the payment methods. Then she was asked to make a test or token transaction of 5. That was enough to allow the scammers access to her account, and they proceeded to clean it out.

Last year, a Bengaluru-based IT professional fell prey to a similar scam. She had looked up the contact number of FedEx to send a courier. When she found a number on Google and called it, an individual posing as a FedEx representative asked her to click on a link sent to her and follow a set of instructions. But when she did, several unauthorized transactions were carried out from her account, and she lost close to 64,000.

But while these have been dubbed as “courier fraud" because of the number of incidents reported which involve courier services, this mode of fraud is not limited to such services. There have been a slew of such incidents over the past couple of years.

The modus operandi of the fraudsters involves posting incorrect phone numbers as the official customer care number of a reputed service, then having a fake customer care executive respond when someone dials in and eliciting information like bank account details, debit or credit card details and even the OTP from the customer on the pretext of helping them.

Protect yourself

The key factor here is being misled by phone numbers and information listed under the wrong name on Google or other search engines.

“Always remember, in case you are searching for courier service agencies on the internet, the name is not everything. Make a note of the official website and official email ID of the company, etc. directly from their representatives or official website," said Rajesh Mirjankar, MD and CEO, InfrasoftTech.

Apart from the usual caution about not sharing sensitive information like card or account details, CVV, OTP and UPI PIN with anyone, Mirjankar cautions about deceptive handles.

“Just because a handle has the word NPCI, BHIM or names similar to any bank or government organization in it, does not make it authentic. Many tricksters create such handles to make you reveal your card or account details. Always double-check and confirm before you transact," he said. He added that you should keep in mind that you are not required to enter your UPI PIN for receiving money.

As with most other scams, the only way to protect yourself from this variety of fraud is to be extremely careful about where you get your information from and what details you share.

Go to the official website of a company or service if you want to contact them, and don’t share any sensitive information or make any payments unless you are absolutely sure that the money will go to the authorized company account.

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