Tuesday, March 11 2014 12:40 PM EDT2014-03-11 16:40:31 GMT
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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -
Everyone can understand the frustration of trying to call and speak to a "live person" in a technical assistance department at a major company. Now, scammers are taking advantage of that emotion with new tech support schemes.
The Sisters in Christ Facebook page is colorful, inspirational, and popular, with more than 170,000 followers. However, it's apparently vulnerable to hackers who replaced wholesome posts on the page with adult content.
"We just immediately panicked," said Teresa Allissa Citro of Sisters in Christ.
Worried about the site's reputation, Citro searched online for "Facebook Phone Tech Support" and found several numbers.
She called the first one that popped up. The person who answered said for $129, they'd rescue their page from the hackers, and keep them out.
"They also were supposedly putting on some kind of a device so that we couldn't be hacked again," Citro said.
Turns out Citro wasn't talking to Facebook. In fact, the social networking giant doesn't even offer phone tech support. Facebook told us, "this was undoubtedly a scam" and the Feds say they've received thousands of complaints about similar tech support scams.
"The goal is to get consumers to pay hundreds of dollars for unnecessary computer repair services," said Colleen Robbin from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC recently launched a major tech support scam crackdown, filing complaints against several companies based mostly in India.
"It was very interesting how persuasive the defendants were in trying to trick consumers," said Robbin.
The FTC says scammers rely on two different schemes. They either cold-call you, claiming to be major companies like Microsoft, Norton, McAfee and Dell, or they lure you into calling fake online tech support listings, like the one Citro fell for.
In both instances, the scammers try to convince you to give them remote access to your computer.
Toledo News Now tried calling some of the Facebook tech support listings, and they sounded convincing. The tech support operator told our producer the only way he could help was by getting into the computer. Once in, they try to sell you repair services, or scare you by telling you it's riddled with viruses and malware.
"But there's nothing wrong with your computer and they're not going to fix it for you," said Robbin.
That's exactly what Citro learned. The support line she called didn't help her at all. She disputed the $129 fee and reported the phone listing to the search engine she used, Ask.com.
"Ask" told us: "Paid search advertising is a huge marketplace… so it is impossible to check every single ad. However, once a problematic listing is brought to our attention… we immediately remove it and black list the advertiser."
Now Citro hopes she's inspiring others not to fall for this tech support scheme.
"I never expected that I wasn't speaking to Facebook, because they answered the phone call with 'this is Facebook technical support,'" she said.
Experts warn not to use online search results to find a company's tech support number. Go to the company's website directly.
If you've been ripped off by a tech support scam, be sure to report it to the FTC.