This may come as a shock to lovers of virtual assistant technology, but Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant aren’t your friends. Not only are they nosey, listening to your private conversations, just waiting for a prompt, but they have become the tools of scammers who are eagerly awaiting your hard-earned bucks.  

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is passing on a warning from the Better Business Bureau to the residents of Michigan: Never use these AI “assistants” to look up a phone number! 

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How The Scam Works 

A press release from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel lays out the game plan for this latest scam that targets users of virtual assistants.  

Scammers are aware of this reliance and have devised ways to trick smartphone users into paying fees for services they didn’t expect to be charged for. They do this by creating fake customer service numbers that will appear in search results when you use voice search. The assist app algorithm will choose the fake number because it appears at the top of the search results.   

The Better Business Bureau relates an example of this tactic that was used on one unsuspecting person who was using voice search to contact United Airlines with a booking question. 

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. 

Tips To Avoid This Scam 

The Better Business Bureau has provided four tips to avoid getting ripped off by this latest scam.  

  • Verify support phone numbers. Use the contact details on the business's website. Confirm the URL on your bill, receipt, or in your confirmation email instead of searching online or using your smartphone to find a number.  
  • Watch out for phony ads made by scammers. These ads may use fictitious customer support numbers and it could be more difficult to distinguish a fake listing from an actual one when using voice search to look up a number. Consult the official corporate website or correspondence for information.  
  • Go straight to the source. If you need to contact a company or business for tech support, customer service, or your account details, use their mobile app or go to their website. Reputable businesses will never request payment information from you over the phone for goods or services. Keep this in mind.  
  • Use your credit card for payments. Disputing a credit card payment is simpler. Using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer for payment is similar to using cash and it’s virtually impossible to get your money back. 

If you have been conned by one of these low-life scammers, the Better Business Bureau has an online form that you use to file a complaint. Your complaint will be sent to the offending business, and they will asked to reply within 14 calendar days. You will be notified of the business’s response when it is received, or notified if there is no response. Complaints are usually closed within 30 days. And most important, Don't Use A Virtual Assistant To Search For A Phone Number!

8 Things To Do If You Paid A Phone Scammer

Merciless phone scammers are targeting unaware folks with schemes involving pleas for charity, car warranties, unpaid traffic tickets, you name it. The Federal Trade Commission says, "Scammers often ask you to pay in ways that make it tough to get your money back. No matter what payment method you used to pay, the sooner you act, the better."
If you have paid one of these scammers and then realize you have been scammed, here are 8 tips from the Federal Trade Commission, on what to do if you have paid a scammer.

Gallery Credit: Brad Carpenter/Federal Trade Commission/Canva

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