Better Business Bureau says scammers may tap into your smart home device

Scammers trick people with fake numbers
Posted at 7:57 AM, Sep 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-09 09:57:33-04

BOISE, Idaho — It's no secret: smart home devices make our lives easier every day, but they're also making it easier for scammers to gain access to your personal information.

The Better Business Bureau is seeing a rise in scams involving smart devices. People ask their devices--like a Google Home, Siri or Alexa--to find and dial a company's number. Then, a "representative" answers with odd advice. They may insist 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.

As it turns out, the "representative" on the other end isn't from the company you thought you were calling at all. Scammers are using fake customer service numbers that can be bumped to the top of search results by paying for ads. That means when you ask Siri, Alexa, or another device to do a voice search, the algorithm could accidentally pick up the fake number.

One recent victim told BBB 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 pre-paid gift cards by insisting the airline was running a special promotion. In another report, a customer used Siri to call what he thought was the support number for his printer. Instead, he found himself in a tech support scam.

There are ways to avoid falling victim to scammers. First, 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, on your bill, or in your confirmation email. It's also important to make sure you are on the company's actual website and not an imposter site.

Beware of fake ads. Scammers can 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. Get your information from the official company website or official correspondence.

Make payments with your credit card as those payments are easier to dispute. 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 resources to help you avoid being scammed, check out the BBB website or the BBB Scam Tracker.