Using a voice assistant to make calls? Here’s how not to get scammed

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The Better Business Bureau is warning that voice search scams are on the rise as criminals have found a way to turn the technology against consumers.

If you use a voice assistant like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant to make phone calls for you, there’s need to be cautious. That’s because a new ruse that works with voice search has almost gotten some callers scammed out of their money!

Voice search scams: Here’s how they work

Here’s how the scam works: Say, for instance, you ask Alexa to call a reputable company’s customer service phone number. Perhaps you need to talk to an airline to book a flight or change an existing reservation.

Your voice assistant will connect you to a “representative” that seems to know what they’re talking about — until they ask for your money via prepaid debit card or wire transfer. That’s when you know it’s a scam!

How could Alexa or Siri connect you to a scammer, you wonder? Because criminals are now paying for ads on sites like Google to appear up high in search results.

The scheme is so effective because Siri, Cortana and the like use algorithms to pull customer service phone numbers from online listings.

According to the BBB, one woman trying to change her seat on a flight called a “representative” and was asked to purchase $400 in pre-paid gift cards. In another instance, a consumer trying to call a support number for his printer found himself in a tech support scam.

To safeguard yourself from a voice search scam like this, here are two things you should do, according to the BBB.

How to protect yourself from a voice search scam

  • Go to the company’s actual website: If it’s hard for you to distinguish ads from organic search results, click through on the listings page to be taken to the company’s official website (make sure the site’s legit). Once you’re there, look for the customer service number and call it.
  • Pay with a credit card: As money expert Clark Howard always says, paying with a credit card offers way more consumer protections than if you use a debit card. If something happens to your money, you can typically work with the card issuer to get it back.

Have you fallen victim (or nearly fallen victim) to a voice search scam? Let us know in the comments below!

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