If you don’t know something, Google it. We trust Google to provide us the information we’re looking for, but unfortunately, not everything you find online can be trusted – not even, it seems, something as innocent as contact details of banks.
Their Modus Operandi
Thanks to widespread awareness of fraud tactics, more people have wizened up to the “old” tactic of fraud calls from “banks” or some other trusted institution requesting your personal details. Therefore, instead of being so obviously pro-active, scammers have turned to subtle ways to trick you instead. Instead of calling you, they’re now making you call them, by changing the phone number of the bank to their own scam number!
How It Works
Scammers are taking advantage of the free-to-access and free-to-edit ability of the community-based information on Google Maps. Google Maps and other community-based applications are editable by anyone and everyone for quick updates and cross-checking. This is useful for instances such as sudden changes in premises for businesses. However, the reverse is also true: it also allows anyone to change formerly correct information to false ones. And because most of us have come to trust Google Maps search results, we may not suspect the phone number and end up unknowingly divulging our private banking information to the “bank”, when it is actually a scammer.
So far, this modus operandi has only been reported in India, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is safe. As mentioned, Google Maps details can be edited by anyone, so other scammers worldwide may well snap up the idea and do the same in their countries!
How to Avoid This Scam
To be safe, stop hitting the Call button directly from the Google search engine or Google Maps. It may be convenient, but you have no way of knowing whether the contact details are correct or not. Instead, dig up your debit or credit card and check the back for your bank’s phone number.
You can also check the bank’s website, usually under their Contact Us tab – but make sure you’re on their genuine, trusted website first! Make sure the website URL starts with “https”, and check for a lock symbol to know that the website is secure.
With this latest fraud tactic, it’s clear that we should be cautious about any information we obtain from the Internet, even if it’s something as simple as a phone number.