Need help with your phone or laptop? Watch out for what's known as the "tech support scam," which is now targeting Apple customers as much as Microsoft Windows users, who represented most victims in the past.
A woman named Cookie Pridemore had a phone problem after she bought a new iPhone 13.
"I got locked out of it," she said, "And there was no way I could get back in it." She needed help.
"So I Googled Apple Customer Service off my husband's phone," she explained. She said she called the first number that popped up.
"The woman answered, she said she would be more than happy to help me," Pridemore said.
Scam numbers pop up during web searches
The number she called wasn't really Apple customer service at all. Pridemore did not realize that when you search online for a tech company's customer service line, you can easily stumble on a scam site instead.
It all happened, so quickly that she was helpless to stop the scam.
"She was inside my account and zoom, zoom, zoom, started transferring money out by Zelle," Pridemore said.
Within minutes the agent made three money transfers, at around $500 each, out of Pridemore's bank account out of the money transfer app that she provided details to.
Sarah Wetzel of the Better Business Bureau warns that scammers post fake tech support numbers as part of a larger scheme.
"They're getting very smart," Wetzel said. "They're even trying to take their logos, or they'll send emails saying they're from it. So it's very important when you see an email or a text that you're reading it through very carefully."
Any sort of spelling or grammar error is a red flag that it is not Apple or another major tech company, she said.
How to protect yourself
Wetzel says be especially careful looking up Apple support, Microsoft or Windows support, or Facebook support, and be suspicious of phone numbers or websites you find.
- Never share personal information like credit card numbers or your apple ID password with someone on the phone.
- Don't click on pop ups or ads saying your device has as security problem. Those are often scam popups to get you to call the scammer.
- Never download a caller's software to fix your device: it can steal your logins, which is what apparently happened to Cookie Pridemore.
"Yeah she's gone," Pridemore said, "but it's my money!"
We have contacted her bank to see if they can recover some of the funds, but have yet to hear of any resolution. In most cases, the money is gone forever.
Apple says "if you ever get an unsolicited or suspicious call from someone claiming to be apple support, just hang up."
According to Apple's support website, "Most Apple software and hardware products include unlimited complimentary support [for] incidents within the first 90 days of product ownership, or longer if required by applicable law."
Also, make sure you are really talking to Apple before you share any information, so you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
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