A favorite tactic of scammers is to convince consumers to pay for services that would otherwise be free. BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) is getting reports of a con where scam artists charge activation fees for devices that are, in fact, completely free to set up.
How the Scam Works
You purchase a new media player, virtual assistant or other tech device. It could be a Roku, Google Home, Alexa, or any other device that needs to be activated after purchase. When you are ready to use it, you search for the customer support phone number. However, instead of getting the official website, you end up on a look-alike site with phony customer support information. You call that number, and you are told there is a new policy in place: All device users must now pay an activation fee. Reports on BBB Scam Tracker indicate that people have been charged anywhere from $80 to $100 to “activate” their new device.
Scammers may ask for unusual forms of payment, such as pre-paid gift cards, or they may ask directly for your credit card number. Once payment is made, they may claim there was a problem and a second payment is needed. In some cases, they may “help” you come up with a new username and password, thereby gaining access to your device account. In any case, scammers hope to get away with your hard-earned money along with your personal information.
How to Protect Yourself from Tech Scams
- Make sure you are visiting an official website. Scammers are skilled at creating look-alike websites with addresses that are spelled slightly different than the official website’s address. Carefully double check the URL or go directly to the site listed in your device’s instruction booklet.
- Beware of sponsored links. Fake websites sometimes pop up in your web browser’s sponsored ad section and appear at the top of the search list. Be careful what you click on.
- Never make a payment with prepaid debit or gift cards. Reputable companies will never ask you to wire money or pay with prepaid cards. Money sent this way cannot be recuperated.
For More Information
For more ways to avoid tech support scams, see BBB.org/TechSupport. You can also find tips to help you stay alert to scammers’ tactics at BBB.org/AvoidScams. For a more detailed analysis of this problem, see our full report on tech support scams: BBB.org/ScamStudies
If you’ve been targeted by a business email scam, report it on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your experience can help others to recognize suspicious behavior and stop scammers in their tracks.