Do not call this number. If you’re currently on a “support call” with someone you reached at this number, hang up, reboot your computer and uninstall the software they instructed you to install. You might also want to get your PC checked out by a qualified technician.
HP is fairly upfront regarding scammers lurking on its forum pages. In the Private Messages section, they instruct you to lookout for fake HP Support messages using a very large banner. In my experience, HP is very quick to ban the scammer, but not so savvy when it comes to preventing future posts by these people.
My brief research of this particular scam number (1-888-242-9613) shows it being used in the HP forums starting in October. That’s at least two months of scam messages to HP customers looking for help with their systems. HP has an obligation, as operator of the forum where this is taking place, to do more to protect their customers.
- Ban scam phone numbers from being used in the forum.
Once the mod verifies a scam, block that number. It’s easy for scammers to create new accounts and startup the old copy/paste again. It’s not as easy for them to establish a new toll-free with a new point-to. There is usually paperwork, and an account manager, and fees for keeping the number open or getting new ones. Spoofing where you’re calling from is super easy. Accepting inbound is more involved. Why not make them start the scam all over again from a new number?
- Mask contact info until the recipient proactively views it.
This would place the responsibility more squarely on the consumer and would have far greater impact than the gray-background banner currently in use (seriously guys, the banner is easily overlooked because that color fades into the rest of the color scheme). If customers have to opt-in to seeing contact info they will scrutinize it and less will be fooled.
- Sandbox scam accounts, ban their bots, delay their messages, create filters for suspicious activity.
If HP suspects the scammers are real people then they can “silence” their accounts, thereby wasting the real person’s time as they continue to copy/paste messages to other HP users not realizing those users are not seeing their message. Waste their time and you cut into their profit, reducing abuse and making it tougher for new scammers to try the same tricks.
If they use bots then we can simply fashion a filter which looks for bot activity (it looks and acts far differently from legitimate traffic). I got a scam PM in less than one minute after I posted to the forum. They are lying in wait to intercept new posts before the mods and community respond. Banning bots or delaying them would help immensely by allowing the community a chance to respond first, frustrating the scammer.
Certain IPs are known as common sources of scammer activity. Those source IPs should be treated with more scrutiny than others. Perhaps you implement a delay for those posts which would allow your system to properly vet the content before sending on to the customer.
Some or all of these techniques have been used in fighting email spam with great success. And HP may use some of them already, but from what I’ve seen they can and should do better. These are just some initial ideas for protecting HP’s customers. If you have some of your own, please chime in below!