The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a scam alert last month when it comes to your smart phone voice search. If you’re trying to find a phone number, voice search has the propensity to route you to scam sites that aren’t really connected to the company you’re trying to reach. Instead, you’ll be routed to a company that might charge you fees before they can help you or demand remote access to your computer.
How it works
When you ask Siri or Alexa (or another AI voice assistant) to dial a number for you, you get connected to a “representative.” This person may or may not be actually associated with the company. According to the BBB, customers have been scammed in this manner when calling Roku and United Airlines, but you could also be scammed if you’re trying to reach UPS, hotels, Amazon or other prominent businesses. Scammers create ads with fake numbers, hoping that you won’t notice you’re calling the wrong number. Voice search increases the risk of getting a bad ad, because you don’t actually look at the ad or the phone number before calling. These ads are against search engine policies. The ads keep popping up,
What is Google doing about voice search scam phone numbers?
Scammers have been changing phone numbers on search for quite a while. According to a report from July, multiple airlines had incorrect phone numbers listed in search. Those phone numbers have since been corrected. A Google spokesperson emailed a statement, Google does “not tolerate this misleading activity.” And “Our teams have already begun reverting the inaccuracies, suspending the malicious accounts involved, and applying additional protections to prevent further abuse.”
How to avoid search scams
Although Google and other search engines are trying to combat phone number scams on search, it’s up to us to be vigilant. The BBB recommends that instead of using voice search to find phone numbers, go straight to the source. Look for the contact information on the official website or in the app, or use the helpdesk online or in an app. Double check the URL to make sure you’re at the official website. Use your credit card to make purchases, because you have more consumer protection and it’s easier to dispute. You may be able to dispute a purchase with a debit card, but it can be harder to actually get the money back.