Scams Are Everywhere… But Here’s How You Can Avoid Them

What’s real and what’s not? With the advancement of technology and artificial intelligence, sometimes it’s tough to tell these days.

It seems that every time technology brings us good news, bad news follows. For example, it’s good news that Google removed more than 3 million fake business profiles in 2018 from its Maps program.

The bad news is that as many as 11 million fake ones could still be hiding in plain sight on Google Maps.

That’s the recent warning from Forbes magazine. And it’s just one of several warnings recently regarding various services. Including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

Let’s take a look at a couple of them. If you use the Internet, Google Maps or a voice-activated assistant to gain information and make purchases, you may want to listen closely.

Putting Fake Businesses on the Map

What difference does it make if there are fake businesses on Google Maps? Well, there are plenty of potential problems for people using that service.

It could be something as “harmless” as thinking you’re finding a business you want to go to just get something from them. Only to find when you get there that they don’t exist.

Or it might be something much more sinister. It could be someone trying to lure you to a location where you don’t want to be.

Creating a fake business could also be for the purpose of charging businesses for services that are actually free. Or to defraud customers. Or securing leads they sell to real businesses.

Scammers Stay One Step Ahead

It’s no wonder something like this happens considering the volume. Each month Google adds more than 200 million places to its map service. Maps is used by more than 1 billion people around the globe.

The industries most likely to experience falsifications are the ones that are used most. Such as plumbers, car mechanics, electricians, etc.

Ethan Russell is product director for Google Maps. Here’s what he says about the situation. “These scammers use a wide range of deceptive techniques to try to game our system.

“It’s a constant balancing act. And we’re continually working on new and better ways to fight these scams. As we shut them down, they change their techniques. And the cycle continues.”

Hearing Voices in Your Head

Here’s another scam. So much technology is voice-activated these days. It might give you more time in your day, but scammers are right there to take advantage of it.

It’s still pretty safe to ask Siri what the weather is going to be tomorrow. And you shouldn’t have a problem if you tell Alexa to play a song for you.

But if you ask your smart device to auto-dial a business you want to connect with, beware. It might not send you where you want to go.

The next voice you hear might not be a representative of that business. It could be a scam. They might start asking you for personal information they “need.”

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

They may ask you to make your purchase via wire transfer or with a pre-paid debit card. Or they could steer you to a site that is not in your best interest to visit.

People are getting scammed in this manner at a disturbing rate. Recently, one woman thought she was calling an airline.

She wanted to change her seat on an upcoming flight. Instead, they tried to get her to supply $400 for a special “airline” promotion.

A man assumed he was talking to someone in tech support recently for printer problem. He soon found himself in a tech support scam.

Spending Funds to Make Funds

These scammers don’t mind extending their wallets. That’s because the rewards can be big when their scams are successful.

For example, they will create a fake business with a fake customer service phone number.

They will then shell out their own funds for advertisements for those businesses. That helps them move up higher in Internet search rankings.

When a person asks Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant or a different device to conduct a voice search, a scam number may be selected.

Don’t Get Fooled

The average consumer may not be particularly good at figuring out what’s fake and what isn’t. But voice-activated assistants are even worse.

Here are three tips from the Better Business Bureau regarding how to avoid becoming a victim of a scam.

  • Be careful when searching for support phone numbers. Don’t do an online search or let your smart device look up a number. Instead, use the contact information on the business’s site or in your confirmation email.
  • Beware of fake ads. Scammers make ads with fake customer service numbers. Using voice search to find a number can make it harder to tell a phony listing from the real one. Get your information from the official site. Or from official correspondence.
  • Make payments with your credit card. It’s easier to dispute a credit card payment. But by wire transfer or pre-paid debit card, it’s like using cash. There is almost nothing you can do to get what you gave back.

These modern-day scams are yet another example of how the more technologically advanced we become, the greater the chance someone will use it for illegal and unethical purposes.

Buyer beware. User beware. Everyone… beware.

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