Voice assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant are very helpful and are capable of doing things for people. Users can command them to do something like read text messages and reply to them. Users can also ask them for directions. A new alert from the Better Business Bureau, however, warns users not to rely on them to look for phone numbers belonging to others.

According to the BBB, scammers create fake customer service numbers then bump them to the top of the search results on the internet with the help of paid ads. When their numbers are right there on top of the list, they are more likely to be picked up by digital assistants.

The BBB cited one incident where a woman asked her voice assistant to look for the customer service number of a certain headline. She said she was calling to have her seat on an upcoming flight changed, but the scammer, pretending to be from the airline’s customer service, tried to con her into paying $400 in prepaid gift cards. The scammer told her this is because the airline had a special promotion.

The BBB also cited another case where a man asked Siri to call a support number for his printer. Instead of getting legitimate support, though, he found himself in a tech support scam -- a scenario where someone who claims to be part of a tech support from a well-known company cons an unsuspecting victim into paying him/her money to “fix” problems the victim never really had.

Those who tend to ask Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant to look for numbers on the internet and make direct calls are advised to do the following:

  • Be extra careful when searching for numbers. Instead of asking a digital assistant to search for a number, look for the business’ website and find the contant number there. Alternatively, check for numbers in official emails or bills.
  • Avoid fake ads. Look for numbers from official websites to avoid getting fake numbers from fake ads.
  • Pay using credit cards. Scammers normally ask for payment via wire transfer or prepaid debit cards because it makes it easier for them to get money. Choose to make payments using credit cards because these can be disputed.

Google Assistant For safety reasons, the BBB advises not to ask digital assistants to look for company numbers. Photo: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach