Be careful before web search

Published 8:30 am Saturday, December 9, 2023

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Most of us do it several times a day. We have a question, need a phone number or are looking for a website, so we open a search engine and type in our request. What happens next is becoming more and more dangerous. 

To steer clear of impostor scams, AARP officials advise avoiding clicking on links or dialing numbers provided in emails or texts. Instead, contact the company or agency using a verified website or phone number. Beware however that even web search results can be manipulated. 

The easiest way that scammers do this is with advertising dollars. By paying to promote their fake websites that mimic legitimate sites, a criminal can jump to the top of your web search results. Complicating matters, some app-based companies lack customer service numbers, so web searches only bring back malicious phone numbers. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t trust web searches, just search carefully. Always look closely at the top results to make sure that they are what you are looking for before clicking. You may also want to avoid clicking on links that are advertisements or “sponsored.” Not all promoted links are fake, but it’s important to understand that promoted web ads are a tactic of scammers.