Patronis offers 3 tips to avoid smart device activation scams

Consumer alert for anyone who just bought Alexa, Roku, Google Home

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's a consumer alert for anyone who just bought a smart device like Roku, Alexa or Google Home. 

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is warning about what he calls "tech device activation scams." He said schemers are charging activation fees for devices that are free to set up.

Here’s how it works: When people are setting up these devices, they start by searching for customer support's phone number. Instead of getting the official website, they end up on a look-alike site with phony customer support information. Once they call the number listed, a person will say there is a new policy in place that requires an activation fee. 

According to the Better Business Bureau, people have been charged anywhere from $80 to $100. 

“Advancements in technology have led to scam artists finding new tactics to steal your money. We will continue to utilize every tool at our disposal to protect Floridians in the fight against fraud,” Patronis said. 

Patronis offered three tips to avoid this scheme:

  • Don’t give out your personal information. It’s important to never give out personal data to people or businesses you do not know.
  • Beware of suspicious 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, including links in emails. Secure websites will most likely have the padlock icon in the search window.
  • Never make a payment with prepaid debit or gift cards. Reputable companies will never ask you to wire money or pay with a prepaid card. Money sent this way cannot be recuperated. When in doubt, report the company to FraudFreeFlorida.com.
  • Additionally, make sure you are visiting an official website. Carefully double-check the URL or go directly to the site listed in your device's instruction booklet. 

    It’s safe to say that if any reputable company asks for payment by gift card, it is more than likely a scheme. 

    About the Author:

    Lauren Verno

    Lauren Verno anchors the 9 a.m. hour of The Morning Show and is the consumer investigative reporter weekday afternoons.