Scammers targeting voice search users on iPhones, smart devices

Scammers targeting voice search users on iPhones, smart devices
The WAFB 9News Alert Team tracks common scams and alerts you when one is circulating in our area.

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says cellphone and smart device users should think before they speak into smart devices. Specifically, the organization says it has received reports of scammers using a function that allows users to lookup phone numbers using only their voice.

“Tell Alexa to play for 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 may accidentally point you to a scam,” the BBB wrote.

Scammers are able to create fake customer service numbers and bump them to the top of search results, often by paying for ads, according to the BBB. When Siri, Alexa, or another device does a voice search, the algorithm may accidentally pick a scam number.

The BBB says its representatives spoke with one victim who alleged she used voice search to find and call customer service for a major airline, hoping to change her seat. Instead, she spoke with a suspected scammer who told her to pay $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 speaking with a schemer.

BBB’s TIPS TO AVOID 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 (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. 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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