When you search online for something, how “smart” are you about what results you click on?  Here’s a little experiment I do every so often with yahoo.com, google.com, and bing.com.  This time, I searched for “contact epson support” (assumedly what someone would type in when they needed to call Epson support for a question on their printer, and didn’t have the number).  I’ve drawn boxes around the links that ACTUALLY take you to the valid Epson Customer Service number….and you can quickly see how misleading a simple online search can be.  Here’s the results:

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The Yahoo.com site was FULL of ads, and actually the only valid links on this page, are the last two on the bottom, that say “www.epson.com/” below them in green.  Call one of those other numbers?  You’ll get someone who will gladly take your information – and money – and scam you and possibly infect your computer with a virus or password protect your computer.  Scary.

How did Bing.com fare?  They were a little better.  The valid links are on the left hand side of the screen.  To be fair, the links above and to the right of the box, do say “ad” in front of them….but it doesn’t stop you from looking at them first, and if you’re not careful, clicking on a bad link.

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Lastly, Google.com probably did the best out of the bunch.  They actually had the correct number several places on their page, and the valid link right at the top of the page.  No doubt these malicious companies tried to get ads in at google.com too….google just probably stopped it- or worked with Epson to make sure that the valid links showed up first.

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So, how does this happen?  Malicious companies pay to have their “all too real” looking sites come at the top of a internet search page, in the hope that unsuspecting people click on the link and call their number before they find the actual Epson customer service number.  Then, when they get you on the phone, they say “I can help you with your printer problem”, and install remote software on your machine, and have complete control over your machine from there.  They can install a virus, encrypt your hard drive…..AND charge you to remove the problems they put there.  It’s horrible, and millions of people fall victim to this each year- which is why they do it.

How do you know where is ok to click?  Check the link (the green website address) under the bolded website title on the search page.  Make sure that the first part of it is valid.  Results like “tech.at.home.epson.com” and “epsonprintersupport.com” look valid….but don’t go to anything that doesn’t start with http://www.epson.com. Period.

Tell your less tech savvy friends….and save them from the heartache of computer problems and viruses down the road.  Of course, if it’s too late, and you’ve fallen victim to one of these schemes, Canyonero Consulting can help you out.