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Our lives can be made so much easier by that home smart device — a quick weather report, find out where traffic is the worst or even make a quick call while cooking dinner. But unfortunately, your smart device may be getting hoodwinked, and you’re the fall guy.

The Better Business Bureau is seeing this scam occur when people ask their home’s smart device — Google Home, Siri or Alexa — to find and dial a company’s number for you. But when the representative answers, the conversation takes a strange turn. This representative has some 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.

Turns out, this “representative” isn’t from the company you thought you were calling at all. It’s a scammer who created a fake customer service number and, often by paying for ads, has gotten their number bumped to the top of search results. So when Siri, Alexa, or another device does a voice search, the algorithm could accidentally pick a scam 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 consumer used Siri to call what he thought was the support number for his printer. Instead, he found himself in a tech support scam.

Tips to avoid this scam are as follows:

  • 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. Also, it’s important to make sure you are on the company’s actual website and not an impostor site.
  • 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. 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 pre-paid debit card is like using cash. There is almost nothing you can do to get the money back.

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Jeremy Johnson is the Eastern Idaho marketplace manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.

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