Voice Assistant Scams on the Rise; How to Protect Yourself
Do voice assistants pose a scam threat?
The ubiquity of voice assistant devices like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant has made them an integral part of daily life but their convenience could lead you to scammers, according to a warning from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), per CBS News. The scam typically begins when individuals want to find a phone number but can't locate a physical copy or a written note of it. They opt for a voice command instead, asking their voice assistant to find and dial the number. Users believe they are being connected to a legitimate company but they're talking to a fraudulent customer service representative.
The 'specific say scam' unveiled
"The Better Business Bureau has received reports across the United States, regarding a 'specific say scam.' When people are asking, for example, 'Siri, look up United's Airlines customer service phone number,' it connects you automatically. You think you are talking to them," explained Paula Fleming, the chief marketing and sales officer for the BBB of Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. "They ask for an upfront fee of $125. You're convinced that you're talking to the legitimate United Airlines. And the next day you realize, 'Wow! It was unfortunately not United.' But yet they directed you to either a fraudulent website or a company that you did not plan on contacting."
While this example focuses on scammers posing as an airline, Fleming noted that there are numerous variations of this scam. "There are tons of reports in different ways in which you're using this technology that people are being unfortunately scammed," she told WBZ-TV.
How voice scammers operate
Scammers employ cunning tactics to lure unwitting victims. They create counterfeit customer service numbers, often with fake websites that closely mimic those of legitimate companies, and manipulate search engine algorithms. By exploiting search engine optimization techniques, they boost their fraudulent numbers to the top of search results, making them highly visible. Unsuspecting users who rely on voice assistants or conduct online searches can inadvertently choose these fake numbers, thinking they are connecting with the legitimate company's customer service. These scams highlight the importance of maintaining vigilance and verifying information sources when using voice assistants and other online services.
Protecting yourself from scams
To protect yourself from falling victim to such scams, Fleming offered straightforward advice. "Go directly to that website. If you're trying to contact customer service, if you're trying to update billing for your devices, or things that require payment, just go directly to them. You can ensure this by visiting their official website or checking your most recent bill or hard copy mail, which typically contains your account number and their authentic contact information. If it's a credit card or a bank card, you can simply flip over the card to find the legitimate contact number." The prevalence of voice assistants in homes today makes it important for users to be vigilant, ensuring they don't inadvertently connect with scammers posing as reputable companies. Stay alert and double-check the source of information to protect your personal and financial information from falling into the wrong hands.
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