“Alexa, Play Track 2 from Awesome Mix 3.” Sounds like a great way to kick off your weekend before your dinner guests arrive. “Siri, what is the weather like in Spokane this weekend?” Again, a solid choice to make sure you plan your day accordingly. “Google, dial Google Customer Service.”
These devices and programs have allowed us to just say what we want rather than looking it up on our phones, tablets or desktop computers. We can even use this technology to dial phone numbers for us. But, every once in a while, this goes horribly wrong and your smart device sends you to a scammer’s number.
How the scam works
You’re a customer and need the phone number for a specific company, so you ask your home’s smart device – Google Home, Siri, or Alexa – to find and dial it for you. But when the company’s “representative” answers, the conversation takes a strange turn. This representative has some odd advice! They may insist that you pay by wire transfer or prepaid debit card. In other cases, they may demand remote access to your computer or point you to an unfamiliar website.
Turns out this “representative” isn’t from the company at all. Scammers create fake customer service numbers and bump them to the top of search results, often by paying for ads. When Siri, Alexa or another device does a voice search, the algorithm can accidentally pick a scam number.
One recent victim told BBB.org/ScamTracker that she used voice search to find and call customer service for a major airline. She wanted to change her seat on an upcoming flight, but the scammer tried to trick her into paying $400 in prepaid gift cards, insisting the airline was running a special promotion. In another report, a consumer used Siri to call what he thought was the support number for his printer. Instead, he found himself in a tech support scam.
How 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 (double check the URL), on your bill or in your confirmation email.
Beware of fake ads. Scammers make 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. Again, get your information from the official company website or official correspondence.
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.
For more information
Check out these tips from the FTC.gov on security and smart home devices.
To learn more about scams, go to BBB Scam Tips (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