CHICAGO -- Several people have contacted the ABC7 I-Team, saying they thought they were speaking to a customer service agent for Cash App but ended up losing hundreds of dollars to scammers.
Sherita Reese said she's used Cash App on her cell phone several times, but recently had problems accessing her money. She said she didn't see a customer service number on the app, so she did what many people do when they need a company number.
"I went to Google it. So I googled the number," she said. "And so the guy answered. And once the guy answered he said sure, I can help you with that."
Minutes later, Reese said she received a call from a man who claimed to be a Cash App supervisor. She said he asked her to download an app so he could check Cash App on her cell phone remotely.
"So as he's helping me, I can see he's going through the Cash App, it's like moving on my screen. I'm like, wait a minute, what are you doing now," Reese said. "Next thing I know, $350 was deducted from my account and then he says immediately goodbye. I'm watching this right before my eyes. It's nothing I can do. At this point, I'm helpless."
Jackie Paige said she too was scammed by someone pretending to be a Cash App customer service rep. Like Reese, she googled Cash App's technical support number, spoke with a so-called agent and was asked to download an app so they could gain access to her phone.
"I'm thinking I'm going through a verification process but what he was doing was deducting funds and this happened within one minute," Paige said.
She said more than $3,000 was taken from her Cash App account. Both she and Reese are devastated.
"I'm on a set income and I'm not rich, and I wouldn't want this to happen to no one else," Paige said.
The Better Business Bureau issued a scam alert after Cash App customers across the country reported being tricked into sending hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to scammers when they thought they were speaking with Cash App technical support reps.
According to the BBB, people looking for help with their Cash App account often search online for a support phone number. They think they're calling a Cash App representative, but they're really dialing a scammer who posted the phony number online.
But how do those phone numbers end up on Google in the first place?
Cybersecurity expert Randy Haba said scammers set up web pages that look like the company's website, and on the site they'll add a phone number so that customers looking for help will contact the scammer directly.
He said the thieves' websites can end up at the top of a Google search with the help of "search engine optimization."
"So search engine optimization is a way to manipulate search results," Haba explained. "Most of the time it's used for marketing purposes but in this instance, it sounds like it's being manipulated to put up these false websites so people can more easily find them."
Cash App, which has more than 30 million users, told the I-Team in part, "We are always working to protect our customers, which includes educating them about phishing scams. As a reminder, the Cash App team will never ask customers to send them money, nor will they solicit a customer's PIN or sign-in code outside of the app. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, you should contact Cash App support through the app or website immediately."
Google told the I-Team that it takes misrepresentation seriously, as it poses a risk to the security of Google users and their property. They said violators may be suspended and may not be allowed to advertise again.
Meanwhile, Paige and Reese said Cash App has not given them back the money they lost.
Reese said she will never use a money transfer app again.
"These scammers are able to get into everything and that is very disturbing for me," she said. "Very disturbing for me."
When dealing with money transfer apps, always be cautious about numbers you find online. Many of the newer apps, like Cash App, don't have numbers you can call for support. Some only let you reach them by email.
You should also never give someone control over your cell phone or computer unless you are 100% sure you are speaking with a real representative.
Full statement from Google
"Protecting users from ad scams and fraud is our top priority. We do not allow advertisers to circumvent our enforcement by disguising their identity or impersonating other brands. When an ad or advertiser violates our policies we remove them from our platforms. We also encourage users to report any misleading ads they see using our support form. Each report is reviewed by a member of our team."
Full statement from Cash App
"We are always working to protect our customers, which includes educating them about phishing scams. As a reminder, the Cash App team will never ask customers to send them money, nor will they solicit a customer's PIN or sign-in code outside of the app. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, you should contact Cash App support through the app or website immediately. For more information on common online scams, please visit https://cash.app/help/us/en-us/6482-recognize-scams."