Proceed with Caution
For those who are looking forward to this new year, be cautious. No, not because it’s full of opportunity—which it is—but because it’s full of scammers looking to make new opportunities. Fake news is what’s being pushed, but really you should be focused on fake phone numbers. Over the past two days I’ve experienced something many of you have likely experienced before. You’re having a problem with something online and want to call the company to get it resolved. So I did what most people do—Google: [company name] phone.
Facebook Blocked Me – What Do I Do?
For me, the first company this happened with was Facebook. Do to a double posting glitch—prominent on the iOS app—I posted two comments with many friends tagged in them. This caused Facebook to lock my account. No warning. No “I am not a robot.” Nothing. So immediately I was flustered. One of the biggest companies in the world has gotten so lazy with their programming. A 10+ year user with an Ads and Business Ads account who’s paid money to Facebook was instantly locked (still am by the way).
So while upset, I think, I need to find a number to call these people. So I go to Google (another “trusted” big company) and type in “Facebook Phone.” Well, wouldn’t you know it! A Google AdSense appeared sharing their link to the help page, some more information about Facebook, and a phone number! So immediately I gave it a call.
Now, luckily as a web developer, I tend to see a lot more scams, spam, phishing, and other dirty tricks online. However, even with all that knowledge, people tend to be irrational (especially when flustered). So I call and someone picks up in just a couple rings (first sign of scam). They’re very polite and first ask for a call back number so that in case the call drops they can get a hold of me. “Sir, what are you calling for?” I respond, “I’m calling about my Facebook account being blocked.”
So throughout the call I hear a lot of talking in the background—something not likely to occur for a big tech companies support line. Next, he asked some simple questions:
- What’s a callback number we can reach you on?
- What’s the name on the account?
- What’s the email associated with the account?
Luckily for me, I was explaining why this was frustrating (the fact I run a marketing business). Because of this, the “operator” asked me the name of my company. This was another red flag. With my account information pulled up, they would know what I was talking about. However, I said it anyway. Again, luckily for me, the name is long and drawn out. So, he proceeded to ask me to spell it out. This is where I really started to question the situation.
Testing the Waters
So I began back-tracking the conversation, stating that the business account wasn’t the problem. That having one simply made this more frustrating. Hoping that in case this was legitimate, I didn’t upset the operator, I drew attention back to unlocking my account. He detoured with me (a bit too quickly) and began stating that he could unlock it, however, it was using a program not on Facebook.
Facebook, More Like Fakebook
Immediately I 180°’ed and realized this was a fake call. So I began to test a few things to ensure that I wasn’t being presumptuous. Eventually it lead to the “operator” asking for a license key to an apple product. Now most people at this point would realize this situation is fake. However, that’s not what’s important. The dangerous part is all the information you’ve already provided.
Turning the Tables
Realizing now that the call was a bust, I decided to at least have fun with him. Not only would it give me momentary pleasure, but it would keep this scam artist off the phone with other potential victims longer. So I had some back-and-forths such as, “What’s a licence?”, “No there’s no license?”, “What’s Apple have to do with it?”, “etc.” Eventually he caught on and I pointed out that I was aware that he was a scam artist. Now, I’ll admit, the next thing he said made me laugh.
“Oh, so you think you’re smart?”
“Well, I guess so…”
“Smart enough to find out this is a scam, but not smart enough to unlock your Facebook account?”
Hahaha, this had me dying. So eventually I realized he wasn’t supposed to get off the phone until he got something, so I kept him on the line for another 20 minutes (at least) telling him I called just to have a friend to talk to. And the conversation got even better.
“Oh, so do you have a girlfriend?”
“No, that’s why I’m calling for a buddy?”
“So, you’re single?”
“Well how about you give me your girlfriend’s number then, we talk to her about this.”
Okay, at this point I was holding back tears from laughter. Finally, the operator deciding to hang up which was great. Defeated -_-.
Reporting the Problem
So proceeding this arduous phone call, I attempted to at least notify Facebook about this scam. Well, it turns out even when you’re benefiting Facebook, they don’t care. Half the support options are only available if you’re logged in—which I wasn’t, nor could I. So eventually I had to give up. As The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday teaches, some objects you can move, others you can walk around, some you can even hurdle, but some are immovable, impassable obstacles, and you must take a new path. And so I did.
GoDaddy Hosting for the Win
So the next day I continued with what work I needed to get done. First on that list, transfer my websites. I recently discovered—much to my embarrassment—that I had been running WordPress websites on a Windows Plesk Server, rather than a Linux cPanel server. Making this switch has been time consuming, but rewarding. With each web page I transferred over, I got better at doing so and the reward was seeing an exceedingly faster website for my clients.
So after moving all but my final website (this one) over to the new server, there was only one task left. When I first purchased the new hosting plan, the helpful GoDaddy representative told me to attach a subdomain to the new host until the transfers were complete. After transferring all the site I had to change the primary domain of the old account to either a different sub-domain or an alternate, unused domain. Once changed, the new host’s primary domain could be changed and the deed would be done. Well, after multiple attempts lasting roughly 2 hours, I decided I needed to call GoDaddy.
Again, I went to the trusted Google and search: “GoDaddy Phone.” Immediately ad Ad appeared on top. Links to their contact page and other useful links followed by a phone number. So I clicked and selected “call.” After approximately two rings, a representative answered the phone, “Hi, can I get a callback number in case we disconnect?”, “And what’s the name on the account?” “The Customer Account Number?” “And, the four digit pin?”
Is This Number Fake?
I was in another interesting predicament again. Sometime between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM I was resolving this problem, tired, flustered, but luckily something in my brain clicked. Thanks to Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, I have become more aware of irrational behaviors and the moments in which they occur—this being one of them. I pulled my phone away from my ear and opened the web browser I had just found this number. “That doesn’t look right,” I thought to myself.
More Fake Phone Numbers
I asked the representative, “Hey, did your guy’s number change?” And he responded with, “Oh we have a lot of numbers.” Wrong answer. I immediately hung up the phone and took some screen shots. Now unlike Facebook, I knew GoDaddy had 24/7 phone service and so I reopened the browser and scrolled down below the fold. There it was—the number I recognized. So I opened GoDaddy’s website and confirmed this number was accurate and placed the call.
Customer Service and Company Advice
After going through the proper machine before the phone call I got a hold of an actual representative. I immediately informed him of the whole situation I recently had with Fakebook (oh I mean Facebook). Then I enlightened him on what their customers would soon have to be concerned with. He was very grateful, immediately submitted this concern to security and also thanked me for informing him personally. He then helped resolve my hosting issue and we parted ways.
What’s the Takeaway
So there’s a couple of things to take away from this. To keep it simple I will bullet these out for you.
- Don’t call customer service when flustered. Whether you get a fake number or not, it’s still a bad idea.
- When using Google search, you must be wary of their posted AdSense. They clearly aren’t filtering and so you must do so.
- When calling any company, there are certain types of information you should always avoid giving over the phone:
- Full name (first name is usually enough).
- Primary phone number (get a Google phone number if wanted, hopefully they’re a bit more trustworthy).
- Account information (account number, pins, etc.).
- Credit card number.
- Physical address.
- Any information you use in answering security questions.
- Finally, be wary in general of things too good to be true (a tech company answering the phone—especially so quick).
If you have any stories on the subject of fake phone numbers, please share them in the comments below! Share this with your friends and family so they can stay safe and free of phone phishers.
P.S. If you would like to leave a voicemail for Facebook, call (650) 853-1300. Then Press “1” for Facebook, then “9” for other, then wait for the audio recording to play out.
Note: It is highly unlikely that they will respond, but it at least made me feel better.