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Watch out for device activation scams after the holidays, the BBB warns

Posted at 2:05 PM, Dec 27, 2019

If you received an Alexa or another gadget as a gift this year, the Better Business Bureau is warning to watch out for activation scams.

“This is basically a new twist on what we call a tech support scam,” says Brian Oglesby, the director of public relations and outreach for the BBB. “Again, scammers are using technology at its finest to entice consumers when they're maybe searching for a customer support number to activate their new device.”

They say crooks have set up fake customer support numbers.

They hope when you Google a number or tell Alexa to call customer service, you'll get their number instead of a legitimate one.

The scammers may try to charge you an activation fee. Or they may have you pass along device access to download malware and then charge you to fix it.

The BBB says activations should be free.

Check the device's manual to make sure you're calling the correct customer service number.

Also beware of sponsored links online.

Scammers set up fake websites and buy ads online to try and direct you there.

“Scam-oriented websites are going to spoof legitimate brands, but the websites are usually not complete,” Oglesby says. “There will be poor grammar and the URL will usually be a few letters off what the legitimate company's website truly is.”

To know if a website is legit, check the terms and conditions. Usually, they’re located at the bottom of the webpage.

And ask yourself: Is the company transparent about who they are? Do links on the website actually work?

If you come across a scam, report it to the BBB’s scam tracker, your local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission.

The BBB also says to never pay anyone with a gift card for anything — it's the biggest scam red flag.