Consumer Handbook: Hey, Alexa... Don’t Dial That Company’s Service Number

Sep 11, 2019

Tell Alexa to play your favorite song. Ask Siri about the weather. Use Google Assistant to turn down the air conditioner. Smart devices provide an easy way to perform simple, daily tasks. But never ask them to look up a phone number, because it may accidentally point you to a scam.

Here’s how this scam works. You need a phone number for a company, so you ask your home’s smart device – such as Google Home, Siri, or Alexa – to find and dial it for you. But when the company’s “representative” answers, the conversation takes a strange turn, as they have some odd advice. They may insist 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. Turns out, this “representative” isn’t from the company at all. 

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

One recent victim told BBB’s Scam Tracker that she used voice search to find and call customer service for a major airline. She wanted to change her seat on an upcoming flight, but the scammer tried to trick her into paying $400 in prepaid 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. 

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 on your bill, or in your confirmation email.