BBB Scam Alert: Using voice search? Use caution when asking for auto dial from a smart device

Web-enabled smart devices, like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant, are a great way to find information or manage home systems quickly. Whether checking the weather, changing the thermostat, finding recipes, or countless other tasks, smart devices provide a quick and convenient way for consumers to integrate their home systems with the internet. However, not all information found online is accurate. Reports to BBB Scam Tracker demonstrate how some people are being directed to an impostor when asking their smart device to call a business.

How the scam works

After asking your home’s smart device to find and call a business for you, a representative for the company comes on the phone – but you start to notice some red flags. They may insist they can only help you after you’ve paid for their services by wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Other times, they may convince you to grant them remote access to your computer or direct you to a scam website.

One recent victim reported to BBB Scam Tracker: “I used Siri to look up the United Airlines customer service line. Somehow, the call was connected to a different company. The agent pretended to be a United Airlines agent and said he could help me cancel my flight. The fee was $125. I was convinced it was United Airlines, but the next day, I realized my mistake. They said they would refund my money, but only after I threatened to call the police. I’m still waiting for a refund.”

In another version of this scam, a consumer tried using voice search to contact Roku with a question about setting up their device. Instead, someone pretending to represent Roku charged them an $80 “activation fee” for a service that doesn’t exist.

In all versions of this scam, the “representative” isn’t from the company you searched for. Instead, scammers created a fake customer service number and bumped it to the top of the search results. These bad actors hope that when consumers do a voice search using Siri, Alexa, or another device, the algorithm will accidentally pick their scam number, and an unsuspecting victim will contact them directly.

Tips to avoid this 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 official website (always double-check the URL) or listed on the last bill, receipt, invoice, or other confirmation message received from the business.

Beware of fake ads. Scammers create bad ads with phony customer service numbers. Using voice search to find a number can make it harder to tell a fake listing from a real one. Get your information from the official company website or official correspondence.

Go straight to the source. For example, if you need to contact Amazon, use the Amazon mobile app or website. This applies whether you’re seeking customer service, tech support, or when looking to make changes to your account. Visit the Message Center on or the official app to review authentic emails from Amazon. Check the protection policies for the company and see what information they authorize their representatives to ask for over the phone. Many companies prohibit official representatives from asking for payment or personal information over the phone.

Make payments with your credit card. It’s easier to dispute a credit card payment. Paying by wire transfer or prepaid debit card is like using cash. There is almost nothing you can do to get the money back.

To learn more about scams, go to If this scam has targeted you, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience on