Smart assistants are unwitting accomplices in new generation of scams

Ewdison Then - Aug 19, 2019, 6:19 am CDT
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Smart assistants are unwitting accomplices in new generation of scams

AI-powered smart assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri are plenty convenient, especially when automating tasks with a single command. With their integration into phones, it’s almost too easy to simply tell them to ring up not just family and friends but also businesses. Unfortunately, smart as they are, they can’t always verify that the number they’re calling is legit and this has lead to what may be the next wave of scamming and phishing strategies that is starting to become more popular.

These smart assistants don’t exactly have the world’s yellow pages saved in their databases. They rely, instead, on search engine results, the very same ones you see when you Google (or Bing) something up in a browser. The thing is, despite Google’s never-ending attempts, there will always be those willing to game the system to be the top result in a search.

Unfortunately, most if not all smart assistants are unable to distinguish actual facts from those presented by search results. In other words, the phone number that might come up for a business or service may not be the actual legit phone number. That, according to the Better Business Bureau’s report, is how these new scams happen.

Say you want to get help with a printer and ask a smart assistant to call the manufacturer’s tech support. Said assistant will simply dial the first number that comes up in search results which may not actually be the real tech support line for that company. Instead, you get a sly scammer with enough skills to con people into paying for services or promos that never existed in the first place.

BBB’s advice is to practically avoid searching for phone numbers online and to just use the listing provided on the business’ website. Presuming, of course, you’re looking at the legitimate website of that business. The site also advocates paying using credit cards which are easier to dispute. When you pay by debit card or, worse, through wire, you’ve practically paid with cash.


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