Don’t necessarily trust the first phone number that pops up in your online search – NBC Connecticut

Search it on Google.

It is an expression that has become so common that it is published in the dictionary.

But don’t just trust, click and call whatever search result comes up first.

If you do a quick Google search to find a phone number to call a specific business, beware of an advertisement that may appear in the results.

Of course it could state the name of the business, but did you know that another business can buy an ad on Google saying they are that so-called business and put their number in the call button that appears first ?

You’re going to want to think twice before hitting call after seeing these travelers’ stories.

The Slaninas are therefore looking forward to visiting their grandchildren in South Carolina.

But when Ed Slanina told his wife he also wanted to take his golf clubs with them on the trip, the Illinois couple decided they needed to upgrade their United Airlines tickets.

So they pulled out their phones. Slanina told his wife: “She googled it and said ‘OK, here’s United’s number’. ‘I’m fine.’ So we used her phone to call.

The agent on the other end of the line upgraded his seats, adding extra luggage, but during the call Ed had a feeling something was wrong – and he was right.

Ed said he asked the agent: “‘You work for United, don’t you?’ And he says ‘Yes, I work for United’.

As the conversation continued, there was another red flag.

“At the very end he says ‘Don’t rush to look at your accusations, you’re not going to figure it all out there,'” Slanina said.

While they thought they had called United directly, there was a charge from a travel agency that Slanina had never heard of.

“We looked at it on our bank statement and it was a $70 increase for the ticket, $120 baggage fee and a $454 travel agency fee for Virago.”

So, let’s back up for a second.

Remember Slanina’s Google search for “United Airlines?”

Salina’s wife clicked the “call” button closest to the search function, probably not noticing that small but very important word: announcement.

And the Slaninas are not alone. A California woman recently experienced something similar.

Alice Klein’s request to change a typo on a recent reservation cost her dearly, after a quick Google and click on that first call button.

“It was two or three thousand dollars more and I didn’t realize until later that I hadn’t spoken to United Airlines,” she said.

So who were Klein and the Salinas talking to?

Their two bank statements led NBC Responds teams across the country to Virago Travels, a company registered in an apartment complex in California.

A spokesperson first responded to NBC’s request for more details, then stopped responding.

In both cases, Virago Travels actually made the requested changes for the traveler, but also added a fee for itself.

United Airlines said Virago Travels should not have changed either reservation, but should instead have referred consumers to the real United.

A Google spokesperson said: “The ads in question violate our misrepresentation policies. These ads have been removed.

But with that comes a warning.

Google puts the blame on those of us doing the research by writing, “Consumers should clearly read all information on the listing before clicking a call button.”

A recent VARN investigation shows that Klein and the Slanina are not alone.

More than half of users don’t recognize paid ads on Google when they see them.

NBC reached out to Ed and Alice’s banks with what we learned, and they’ve both been refunded all of their money, but these travelers don’t want you to make the same mistake.

“It just seemed unreal that this could happen,” Klein said.

Our call button warning goes beyond the airlines.

NBC responds Googled other big companies – a national carpet cleaner, a huge insurance company, and more, and often we got a call button that called a smaller competitor.

Like Alice and Ed, if you have a consumer problem or need help getting your hands on your hard-earned cash, our NBC CT Responds team is committed to doing just that: responding.

Submit your complaint here.

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