Most consumers have come to expect being able to reach a company’s customer service team by phone, so what happens when a company offers no dedicated service line? In Facebook’s case, this spells trouble. According to firsthand research conducted by NPR reporter Aarti Shahani, conducting a Google search for "Facebook Customer Service" does indeed produce a number to call, except that number is fake and leads callers right into the hands of scammers.
When Shahani Googled the phrase, the number 844-735-4595 came up, so Shahani called it. A person picked up, but the activity on the line sounded suspicious, so Shahani reported the phone number to Pindrop, a company that deals with phone fraud. Sure enough, Pindrop uncovered a scam and traced it back to India.
When Pindrop called the number, someone on the line named Steven pretended to be a Facebook employee. He instructed the Pindrop researcher on the phone—who claimed he was locked out of his Facebook account and needed to get back in—to go to Walmart or Target and purchase an iTunes gift card. Steven also said to then call the number back and provide him with the 16-digit security code on the back of the gift card. According to Shahani, “this is a well-known method of stealing from innocent people online. Both Apple and the Federal Trade Commission have issued alerts about it.”
It’s unclear how the scam not only got past Google’s filters but also appeared as a “featured snippet” among search results. “Facebook customer service” is searched for about 27,000 months per month in the United States, Shahani wrote in a post, citing Google’s own data, so there’s a chance that hundreds, if not thousands, of people were at risk of being victimized.
There’s also some evidence to suggest that the scam has reached other countries besides the United States as well. In Australia, for example, where “Facebook customer service” is searched for 1,300 times every month, the first, third, and fourth top results all provide fraudulent phone numbers. Only the second search result actually directs users to Facebook’s legitimate help center, SmartCompany reports. One Australian scam goes even further than an iTunes gift card—the scam artist instead asks the caller to pay a $150 fee to reinstate a “compromised” Facebook account.
Though Facebook does, in fact, not have a customer service line, the company does offer service in other ways. “The Facebook Help Community is a good place to start. It's a message board where you can post any questions you might have. Having trouble logging in to your account? There's a special form for those issues on this Facebook page,” tech blogger Lee Mathews suggested in a post for Forbes.
As for Facebook, the company told Shahani that it has long been after the group behind this toll-free number. Plus, Facebook’s customer service employees that monitor the online help center also try to discourage any attempts to call the fraudulent line and caution users against calling the number.