PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Though home smart devices are perfect for issuing reminders, creating shopping lists and asking about the weather, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning against using them to find phone numbers.
Home smart devices, like Google Home, Siri and Alexa, can accurately respond to a variety of voice commands. But the BBB has received reports of the smart devices finding and dialing phone numbers that aren’t actually the ones requested.
How the scam works
The BBB explained that scammers typically create fake customer support service numbers and “bump them” to the top of the search results. That way, when someone asks their home smart device to call a customer support line, the algorithm will accidentally dial the wrong one.
In a recent report submitted via the BBB Scam Tracker, a victim asked Siri to look up the customer service number for United Airlines.
“Somehow, the call was connected to a different company,” the victim wrote. “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.”
“[The scammers] said they would refund my money, but only after I threatened to call the police,” the victim added. “I’m still waiting for a refund.”
There are a number of red flags to lookout for, according to the BBB. Those red flags include demanding a payment via wire transfer or prepaid debits cards, requesting remote access to a smart device and directing their victims to a fake website.
How to avoid home smart device scams
- 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.