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An online phone number search can land you on a call with fraudsters

Fraudsters posing as customer service providers
Fraudsters lurking in online phone number search results
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 08:57:10-04

PUEBLO, COLO. — When was the last time you used a phone book? Most of us now search for phone numbers online, or even using our phones themselves. But News 5 explains how fraudsters are working to make sure you call them on accident when searching for that phone number.

When we look up a phone number online, or on our phones, we usually don't question if that number is legitimate.
One Pueblo family learned accidentally ending up on the line with fraudsters does really hurt.

"Yeah it does you know? Because it's not fair. It's not fair to come after a poor innocent women you know? My mom," said Tony Guagliardo with tears in his eyes.

This, after he contacted News 5 to let us know his mom Marian fell victim to fraudsters after she tried to find a phone number for Paypal to ask a question about a charge.

"Well I looked it up on Google and I either spoke, or typed in Paypal phone number. That's when I got several things, but this one looked like it was going directly to Paypal. So I called it and from there it sounded like it was legit. He said yeah I know what charges you are talking about, but I need a little more information from you," Marian told News 5.

She spent three hours on the phone with the impostors on the fraudulent customer service line. They even convinced her to block all incoming calls.

"I can't believe a scammer was able to convince my own mother to block me on her phone so I couldn't get through," Tony said.

"That led him (Tony) to calling the police," said Marian. "The police came and I'm sure that he heard police and all this and when I went back to my phone he had hung up."

News 5 did a story on these kind of customer service impostor scams back in 2019. In that case a woman found herself in trouble after looking for a number for Amazon.

The best advice is to get customer service numbers on your own directly from a bill, or directly from the website of the company.

For that story I spoke with the Better Business Bureau of southern Colorado who said even back at that time this was something we should all be aware of.

"Now, in the day of using Siri, or Alexa like we've talked about, unfortunately a consumer can ask their device to contact customer service for Amazon, or whoever that might be and that can pull up a fraudulent number," Adah Rodriguez of the BBB of Southern Colorado told News 5 back in 2019.

Marian never paid the fraudster, but she did give up enough personal information that now she says she's dealing with more than $10,000 in charges made in her name on her Paypal account. She says she hopes people can avoid these headaches by learning from her experience.