smart phone

Be careful when you’re using voice search, a consumer group warns.

The Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina has issued an alert concerning a scam in our region.

The alert concerns using auto dial from your smart device.

While the release states it is still fine to ask Alexa to play your favorite song or headlines, to ask Siri about the weather or use Google Assistant to manage a device, the issue comes in asking your smart device to look up a phone number.

This applies to all smart devices, such as Google Home, Siri or Alexa, according to the group.

But then things can get off track.

According to the release, the scam develops in this way:

When the company’s “representative” answers, the conversation takes a strange turn. This representative has some odd advice, which may include insisting that 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.

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

One recent victim told that she used voice search to find and call customer service for a major airline, the release states. 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.

So how do you avoid this? The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:

• 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. 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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