BBB Scam Alert: Using voice search? Use caution when asking for auto dial from a smart device

The following is from the Better Business Bureau:

Tell Alexa to play your favorite song. Ask Siri about the weather. Use Google Assistant to turn down the air conditioner. But don’t ask your smart device to look up a phone number, because it could accidentally
point you to a scam.

How the scam works

You need the phone number for a company, so you ask your home’s smart device, which might be Google Home, Siri or Alexa, to find and dial it for you. But when the company’s “representative” answers, you start to notice some red flags. This representative may insist they can only help you if you make a payment by wire transfer or prepaid debit cards. Other times, they demand remote access to your computer or point you to a scam website.

One recent victim reported to BBB Scam Tracker: “I used Siri to look up the United Airlines customer service line. Somehow, the call was connected to a different company … The agent pretended to be a United Airlines agent and said he could help me cancel my flight. The fee was $125. I was convinced it was United Airlines, but the next day I realized my mistake. They said they would refund my money, but only after I threatened to call the police. I’m still waiting for a refund.” Read more about airline booking scams.

In another version of this scam, a consumer tried using voice search to contact Roku with a question about setting up their device. Instead, someone pretending to represent Roku charged them an $80 “activation fee” for a service that doesn’t exist. Learn more about similar cons targeting smart TV owners.

In all versions of this scam, the “representative” isn’t from the company you were searching for at all. Instead, scammers created a fake customer service number and bumped it to the top of the search results. These bad actors hope that when consumers do a voice search using Siri, Alexa, or another device, the algorithm will accidentally pick their scam number and an unsuspecting victim will contact them directly.

Tips to avoid this scam:

● Be careful when searching for support phone numbers. Rather than doing an online search or letting your smart device look up a number, use the contact information on the business’s website (always double check the URL) on your bill, receipt, or in your confirmation email.

● Beware of fake ads. Scammers create bad ads with fake customer service numbers. Using voice search to find a number can make it harder to tell a phony listing from the real one. Get your information from the official company website or official correspondence.

● Go straight to the source. For example, if you need to get in touch with Amazon, use the Amazon mobile app or website. This goes whether you’re seeking customer service, tech support, or when looking to make changes to your account. Visit the Message Center on Amazon.com or on the official app to review authentic emails from Amazon. Remember that
reputable companies like Amazon will never ask you to provide payment information for products or services over the phone.

● Make payments with your credit card. It’s easier to dispute a credit card payment. Paying by wire transfer or prepaid debit card is like using cash. There is almost nothing you can do to get the money back.