You ask for help on a company’s web forum.
A friendly customer service rep replies “Please call customer support 1-877-571-5111 and we can help you with this.”
Don’t do it – it’s a scam.
Company and product based forums across the internet are being spammed by scammers posing as “customer service” reps.
The same phone numbers are showing up in “customer service” videos on YouTube as well (example).
Consumer Press called one of the fake customer service numbers to learn how it works.
The scammer that answered was very professional sounding. He did not identify the company he was with. Just answered “customer service,” and then listened carefully to my issue.
He repeated back some key points… reflecting what I told him. It really seemed like he knew what I was talking about, even though it was totally made up and something I absolutely knew he could not help with.
After a bit of time discussing the issue, the scammer asked me to go to https://helpme.net and enter my name and the support key he provided, 399-243-755. He then asked me to click the ‘continue’ button.
Hitting the button triggered the browser to load a page that included a file download from https.getgo.com/launcer2/launch.html (I don’t recommend visiting any of these urls). Then I was instructed to open that file.
At that point I discontinued the call. I already knew it was fraud because the number isn’t really a customer service number for the company whose forum I was on. Based on my research, the next steps they would have performed would be: taking control of my computer; looking through it for banking records and passwords; infect it with malware so they could access the computer again in the future; and then charge me for the ‘work’ that they did.
The site the scammer directed me to (helpme.net) is an alias site (one of many) for a service that allows the scammer remote access to a caller’s computer.
The company that provides the service, LogMeIn, is a legitimate, NASDAQ listed, company. Though the service can be used for honestly helping clients, it’s often used for nefarious reasons as well. This is not the first time we’ve run across LogMeIn when investigating scams. See: RealClearPolitics.com Is Loaded With Real Clear Scams.
When asked about scammers using LogMeIn to access victims computers, Toni Iafrate, Director of Corporate Communications at LogMeIn, told Consumer Press:
“We take the security of our users – and those who ultimately come in contact with our software — very seriously at LogMeIn. Use of our products for nefarious or illegal purposes is a clear violation of our terms and conditions and is immediate grounds for account termination. To protect both consumers and our customers, we have implemented proactive and reactive approaches designed to thwart abuse. These include but are not limited to monitoring accounts for unlawful use, canceling accounts that partake in these activities, employing session limitations on trial accounts, and added ‘friction’ to our registration pages designed to reduce re-trialing (under another alias) once banned. Additionally, we’ve added warnings to end users, as remote support software should only be used between parties where there is an existing relationship and/or the user trusts the support provider. There is a ‘kill switch’ on the software, ensuring that the user is always in control and can end the support session at any time. In some cases, we will also work with law enforcement and the proper authorities to report and investigate abuse.
Once a user is reported to us as a potential scammer, the user is automatically banned from using the system and email is blocked. Additionally, all like emails are blocked or monitored to help prevent repeat use. If the account is someone using a free trial, this protects against future abuse. If it is a paid customer account, we contact the account administrator and begin investigations into the session. We review the session logs and if we determine a scam occurred, or there was suspicious activity, we take steps to cancel the account and ban the user. Put simply, we have proactively turned away business and terminated contracts based on this type unacceptable and irresponsible behavior.”
Considering the proliferation of fake “customer service” scams though, it would appear that the steps LogMeIn is taking to prevent fraud, are inadequate.
Here’s a sampling of some of the numbers fraudulently posted as customer service numbers, and the different formatting options they use to try to get around spam prevention filters:
1(844)-787-0081, 1-844-506-1244, 1888-366-0222, 1(833)_272_O777, 1-845-419-1117, 1-844-711-9555, 1-877-244-0303, 1(855)-501-3888, 1-702-746-1479, 1(845) 202-0990, 1-219-488-1090, 1855.436.7666, 1-877-827-5222, +1(877)-(827)-(5222), 1877-827-5222, 18778275222), 1-877-343-0444, 1877-343-0444, 1-844-440-5440, 1-870-447-1477, 1-870-474-1477, 13048149728, 1-888-678-5401, 1-888-658-0685, 1-855-550-0299), 1-855-550-6799, 855-550-6799, 1855-550-6799), 1-844-476-2432, 1-833-600-8859, 1-855-332-0777, 1-855-3320777, 18553320777, 855-332-0777, 8553320777, 1855 332 0777, 1-855-448-5111, 1 800-678-7219, +1800-678-7219, 1-845-228-8868, 1-202-750-4726, 1-866-992-5299, 844 400-2457, +1844-800-2457, +1-844-800-2457, 1-888-344-0222, 18883440222, 1888-344-0222, 1845-379-0111, 1-845-379-0111, 1-845-481-1722, 1-845-704-2420, 1-845-259-6015, 18452596015, 1-833-600-8889, 1-845-440-1607, 1-808-999-0030, 1-888-858-9555, 1888-858-9555, 18888589555, 1844-391-8999, 1-844-391-8999, 1-877-571-5111, 1-855-488-5111, 1-888-367-5111.
Thanks goes to GMail Help Forum Product Expert Brett Carver, author of How NOT To Get Hacked, for helping compile this list.
Consumer Press was able to trace the ownership of some of these phone numbers to a company called Real Time Cloud Services.
Our questions to the company were routed to Hitesh Chaudhary, Manager, VoIP Support, The Real PBX Limited, which is apparently a part of Real Time Cloud Services.
Chaudhary, in broken English, said:
“As we also a telco provider and have a no tolerance policy against fraudsters. However we risk management team themselves analyze all clients to ensure that they are using our services ethically. If we find that the clients are using any malpractice, we immediately block their services.
All these numbers are using by our end customers and if we found any number is being used for unethical services, we block the end user services completely.”
If you’re keeping count, that’s two companies who say they don’t allow these types of things and take measures to prevent “abuse”… but the scamming continues.
Considering the proliferation of the customer support phone number scam, the safest way for consumers to get a real customer service number is to visit a company’s contact or customer support page. If the company does not post a contact phone number on their site outside of a public forum, chances are they don’t offer one.
Have you been tricked into calling one of these numbers, or did you find this article because you were looking up one of these numbers?
Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to share this post with your friends, family and followers – they’ll appreciate the heads up!