Phone Scammers In Google Search Results

The Guardian has the details of another new telephone scam, this time involving the search  results on Google and Premium Rate phone numbers.

The scam’s probably best explained with an example; search for something like “British Airways Telephone Number” on Google, and you’ll get a set of results like this (click for a larger view):

Google Premium Rate phone scam

I’ve highlighted the scammy links, found in Google’s sponsored results (so the scammers are paying to appear there), these are sites offering to give you British Airways’ telephone number. But when you click through to one of those highlighted results, here’s the sort of site you’ll see:

Google Scam

Many people would see the big number and immediately call it, expecting to get through to BA’s customer service. In fact, if you read the small print, you’ll see that you’ll actually only get the real number read back to you by an automated voice. Crucially, the call will also cost you £1.53 from a BT landline, and probably an extortionate amount from a mobile phone.

We’re using British Airways as an example here, but the scammers will be doing this for lots of different company names, such as Sky, and of course this is information that is available for free elsewhere on the web, the best place being the companies’ own websites.

It’s not the most sophisticated of scams, and you could say that it’s another example of where you should take care to read the small print before proceeding with any advice given online, but it’s obviously still catching out a lot of people, as the regulator PayPhonePlus found that these types of scam can give returns as high as £250,000 per year to the scammers – Google will be making a small from this too, remember, as the scam relies on the fraudulent websites appearing high up in the search results.

PayPhonePlus has fined a couple of companies for misleading consumers in this way, but the results are still appearing.

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