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A podcast by BBB of the Tri-Counties
A BIG thank you to Ayers Automotive Repair in Santa Barbara for supporting this podcast.
Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! 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
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 pre-paid debit card is like using cash. There is almost
nothing you can do to get the money back.
For more information
Check out these tips from the FTC.gov on security and smart home devices. In Canada,
check out these consumer affairs tips. To learn more about scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips. If you’ve been targeted by this scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience on BBB.org/ScamTracker. Stay one step ahead of scammers by subscribing to BBB’s weekly Scam Alert emails.
Until next time!