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When you purchase something and it doesn’t work as expected or you paid a bill but it hasn’t cleared, a phone call to customer service is often the key to achieving a positive resolution. However, when a company doesn’t have a customer service department or the business is known for being difficult to reach, scammers see a perfect opportunity to fill the gap by creating fake customer service centers to prey on those needing assistance.

NPR recently tested the theory focusing on a popular social media channel. Using Google data, NPR determined “Facebook customer service” is searched about 27,000 times a month is the U.S.  But the search results do not produce an actual Facebook customer service number. Instead, consumers are shown a number that has no association with Facebook.  NPR joined forces with Pindrop, a company specializing in phone fraud. A Pindrop investigator called the number provided by the search engine. His call was answered by a Facebook employee named Steven, but a trace of the call placed Steven in India.

The Pindrop investigator pretended to be locked out of his Facebook account and asked for assistance. The answer was a clear give away it was a scam: Purchase an iTunes card and provide the 16-digit security code on the back. The scammer went on to clarify that once this number was provided, the researcher would be given a new password for their account.

iTunes gift cards, and most other prepaid gift cards, are a fast and popular way for con artists to get money. But as the FCC explains, once a code is shared, the money on the card is gone for good. Sadly many consumers fall for scams utilizing gift cards. Remember: the iTunes store (and other Apple stores) is the only place that accepts payment using an iTunes gift card.

There are many security risks online, so consumers should be cautious when trusting certain search engine results! Search the company’s website to determine if they have a customer service department and use the contact information provided on their website. If you are using a search engine, double check the results. Even adding the word “scam” to the phone number can help reveal if others have suspected the number may not be legitimate.

Although Facebook does not have a direct number that consumers can call, they do have an online help center. If your problem is not listed in the help center, you can look at Facebook’s community forums.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

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