Scammers are preying on people who use voice assistant technology apps like Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa to look up customer service phone numbers.
Cybercriminals are aware of users’ reliance on these features and have devised ways to trick them into paying fees for services they didn’t expect to be charged for, the Michigan Attorney General’s office said yesterday. If the fake phone number appears in the top search results, the voice assistants will choose it.
Increasingly, scammers are targeting cord cutters by putting fake customer service phone numbers online. Cord cutters searching for how to call popular services like Netflix, for example, are not finding the phone number to the service but a scammer’s number. From there, the scammers try to charge them for customer service or get them to sign up for services they don’t need. The Federal Communications Commission estimated that cybercriminals schemes have cost consumers upwards of $330 million last year.
Federal agencies and government officials have been at war with scammers for decades, but the ever-evolving nature of technology makes the fraudsters difficult to stop.
In the meantime, understanding the tactics scammers use is a good way to protect yourself. Bad actors often use phishing scams — email or text messages with cleverly worded requests designed to get you to respond with your personal information. These messages often try to convince you that your payment method failed or your account is compromised — an ask you to click a link to fix it. Do not click the link — even if it sounds urgent.
Scammers also use a tactic called vishing, a type of phishing that happens over a voice call.
The Michigan Attorney General’s office cited tips from the Better Business Bureau as well. The organization advices consumers to verify support phone numbers and watch out for phony ads. In addition, consumers should always investigate the original source.
“Reputable businesses will never request payment information from you over the phone for goods or services. Keep this in mind,” the bureau’s tips read.
In addition, it’s worth noting that credit card payments are easier to dispute than prepaid debit cards or wire transfers.