TULSA, Okla. — Fake Google listings and paying with gift cards. A one-two punch that can clean out your bank account.
Scammers recently landed that devastating blow on a grieving, disabled Tulsa grandmother.
"Oh my God, please help me, Lord..."
A soul suffocating in sorrow.
"This ain't right, just not right, I've been nice, I've been good."
A Bible-believing, broken heart torn apart even more - by a heartless crook.
"My life is just in shambles right now, all I know to do is pray to God that he will fix it for me, that's all I know to do."
Regina Sanders tried to rent a car last week to go to Oklahoma City for the funeral of a loved one.
Then, she and her two granddaughters she has raised as her own would drive to Atlanta for a trip they had planned for a year. They saved for a little every month for a double ceremony where her aunt and her uncle would renew their vows.
"I live on a fixed income, I don't see why they took my money like this."
But when she googled a car rental company, Regina says the first listed number directed to her a person she would soon find out was a scammer.
He convinced Regina she could get a great price on the 9-day rental but would need to pay by purchasing not just one, but two $500 cash cards and give him the numbers.
"And like an idiot, I went and bought another one."
When she called the person back, all she heard was a busy signal
A sure sign, Regina says, she had been scammed. Swindled out the last thousand dollars in her and her grandbabies' bank account until her next monthly disability check comes in a couple of weeks.
For days and for nights, she hasn't slept a wink.
"It just broke my heart, I'm just so tired, I've never been so tired in my entire life, never, ever been this tired in my life."
All she can do now, Regina says, is warn others about her scammer and do what the Bible tells her to do.
"I just pray for you sir, that God will have mercy on you and your soul and you stop taking people's money because it's not right, it's not fair."
The Federal Trade Commission warns scammers often create fake Google listings for popular companies. Many of these fake listings deal with travel and vacation planning.
And as always, as Regina painfully learned, never pay anyone using a cash card or a gift card, if that's the only way they'll take a payment.
If you want to contact a company or its customer service department, you can do a quick search online and often find what looks like its phone number or email. But is the information at the top of your search results actually correct?
Based on reports the FTC has gotten, sometimes the answer to that question is: no. Some scammers are creating fake customer service information for popular companies and paying for it to show up in your search results. When you contact them, they’ll offer to “resolve” the problem you may have — if you wire money to them or send gift cards. They might also ask for your personal information, or to get remote access to your computer.
Business imposter scams have the same end goal — getting your money or information. Here are some ways to stay safe:
- Check the product packaging. If you still have it, the packaging, manual, or other print material for your product is a good source of real customer service information.
- Visit the company’s official website for contact information. Type the company’s website address directly into your browser. That will get you to the company’s website to look for customer service contact information —maybe a phone number, email address, or a way to submit a message directly through their website. If you use a search engine to find the company, though, double check the URL to be sure you’ve found the company’s official site, not a scammer’s site.
- Never wire money, send gift cards, or give your account password in exchange for customer service help. No legitimate company will ask you to send gift cards or wire money, or give your password in exchange for customer service help. Hang up on anyone who does.
Have you spotted fake customer “service”? Report it to the FTC on their website.
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