We all have the practice of searching for customer care numbers and toll free numbers on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo etc whenever we need any help on a stuck transactions or refund or replacements or shipment delay etc.
This habit can prove you costly and you could land into a trap of fake toll free / customer care numbers positioned by any scammer, who is just waiting for this kind of search to lure a victim and then get away with your money and all your personal details.
Broadly there are two types of customer care fraud is (a) Fake customer care number present on Google (b) Fake tech support people calling to fix the problem or provide extended warranty services etc..
Recent Cases reported on Press / Internet on Fake Customer Care Numbers :-
- A woman in Bengaluru lost her total bank balance when she dialled a fake food aggregator call centre to seek a refund for her order. As she couldn’t find a customer support number on the food aggregator app, she searched for customer support numbers on search engines and dialled a number from the search results. After she registered her refund request on this fake customer support, her entire bank account was wiped out in just few minutes.
- A similar incident happened when a user had a payment issues (Stuck Due to Internet Disconnect) on unified payments interface (UPI) based App. The scammers display the fake customer support contact numbers of unified payments interface (UPI) based App on a non-reputed blog which provides all customer support numbers. When users contacted the fake customer support number, the scammer asked for personal details from the users and duped several of them.
Modus Operandi of the Fraud :-
- When the user calls the fake toll-free / fake customer support numbers, the user believes it to be a regular customer support centre as they mimic the entire process along with the options, voice and step by step process which the official customer support centres have in practice.
- Once the user calls the fake customer support, they start communicating and take control of your entire details, Usually they will use scare-ware tactics like if the details are not updated immediately it will result in financial or access loss.
- Asked to fill up a google form which asks for complete details along with the OTP / PIN information.
- Use screen sharing software’s (Any Desk, Team Viewer Etc) through which they gain access of your details including the OTP / PIN information.
- While on communication the scammers requests you to provide an acceptance or confirmation asking for OTP / PIN information.
Possible Customer Care Frauds:-
- Tech Support Frauds
- Bank Account Frauds
- Credit Card Frauds
- Lottery Frauds.
- Employement Frauds
- Government Scheme Frauds
- Travel Frauds
- Rental Frauds
- Tourism Frauds
- Gift Card Frauds
Cases that can be registered :-
- Section 420 (cheating) of IPC.
- Section 66C (identity theft) of the IT Act.
- Section 66D (impersonation to cheat by using electronic and computer device) of the IT Act.
- Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.
- They are also liable for violation of regulations relating to Know Your Customer (KYC) norms/Anti Money Laundering (AML) Standards.
How to Safeguard Yourself :-
- Do not simply call up the number which comes in the Google , Bing or Yahoo search. Instead.
- Remain skeptical of results that appear in search ads. Listings placed at the top and sides of search pages are typically reserved for advertisements, which scammers can easily purchase and impersonate any App or a Bank or any Business Entity.
- Do not provide your personal details to anyone over the phone. No banks or reputed companies will ask you to provide your personal details like card number, CVV and OTP or the UPI PIN Numbers over the call.
- Only call the customer service number printed on a credit card, receipt or found on a company’s official website.
- Contact the business via email or instant messenger that is listed on the App or website, it could be possible that few of the (unified payments interface) UPI based Apps do not have a customer’s support number.
- Others include (a) Be wary of unsolicited communications (b)Verify the caller (c) Keep personal information private (d) Use strong passwords (e) Don’t click on suspicious links (f) Be cautious of social media requests (g) Don’t make decisions because some one pressurises you (h) Never do screen sharing while talking on the phone.