3 On Your Side

Be careful when searching online for customer service help numbers

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Julia Roberts found a "customer service" number but it turned out to be a scam. (Source: 3TV) Julia Roberts found a "customer service" number but it turned out to be a scam. (Source: 3TV)
She looked and realized the URL did not match the company she thought she was calling, a major red flag. (Source: 3TV) She looked and realized the URL did not match the company she thought she was calling, a major red flag. (Source: 3TV)
Roberts says she hung up and contacted the software's real customer support number who told her the online helpers were not currently authorized for company support. (Source: 3TV) Roberts says she hung up and contacted the software's real customer support number who told her the online helpers were not currently authorized for company support. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

When Julia Roberts’ favorite financial software program acted up, she did what she usually does when she needs help.

"Google the company name and 'customer support.' And when I did, a number came up right away. A logo came up," she said.

She called and says a knowledgeable person took over her computer screen and fixed her problem. All was good until she says she was almost talked into a $460 customer service contract.

"I was literally reaching for my wallet to get my credit card out when I just stopped and said, 'Something's not right,'" said Roberts.

She looked and realized the URL did not match the company she thought she was calling, a major red flag, according to expert Steve Weisman. While some companies may be legit third parties, Weisman says consumers need to be careful when searching for numbers online.

"Remember, scam artists are the only criminals we call 'artists,' and they know that we are vulnerable here," he said.

Vulnerable, says Weisman, because some businesses have either hard to find or no customer service numbers on their websites. Or people simply look for numbers through search engines. Weisman says scammers know that.

"So, what they're going to do is they're going to manipulate the algorithms that are used by search engines so that when you look for a customer service number they are going to come up," he said.

Roberts says she hung up and contacted the software's real customer support number who told her the online helpers were not currently authorized for company support. When she tried to go back and check that URL again?

"I went back to it and had banned my IP address," she said.

Weisman says many times the main goal is to take your personal information or money. He says you should always look up at the URL like Roberts did, and check a domain ownership site.

Roberts says she considers herself internet savvy but now knows not everything is what it seems.

"You have a false sense of security when you put in a company's name and 'customer service' that will be the company you're looking for," she said.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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