Even Smart TVs can be line into your life for scammers - Albuquerque Journal

Even Smart TVs can be line into your life for scammers

Any time you’re connected to the internet with any kind of device, you can be targeted by scammers. And that includes smart TVs, which provide online access for free and paid streaming apps such as Netflix and Hulu, for example.

A number of incidents reported by the Better Business Bureau this year involve viewers who have been caught off-guard by pop-up ads suddenly appearing on their screen.

It happens when you turn on your TV and get the pop-up, telling you there is some kind of problem with the device or with your streaming service. You’re told to call a phone number or go to a particular website to get things working again, the BBB says.

Resist the urge. Responding in either way takes you to fraudsters who are pretending to be customer service representatives. They will instruct you to pay an activation fee or provide access to your smart TV so the problem can be fixed.

If you pay the fee, you will have to turn over your credit or debit card number. If you provide access to the TV or click on the link they give you, “the scammers may install malware on your TV and use it to gain access to sensitive personal information,” the BBB says.

Here is a particular red flag: In some cases, they will ask you to pay the fee in gift cards. The BBB says one consumer was told to buy three $100 Xbox gift cards to add “anti-hacking protection” to his account.

Here’s what to do:

• If a phone number appears in a pop-up ad, check it before you call. The BBB suggests contacting a streaming service or TV manufacturer’s website to find a customer service number. Or you can do an internet search on the number to see if it’s connected to any scams.

• Never let a stranger control your device remotely. That goes for smart TVs as well as computers.

• Don’t fall for fake websites, which scammers create by using URLs in which one or two letters are altered.

Census survey’s the real deal

And here’s something that’s not a scam: the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

This is a legitimate survey the Census Bureau conducts by randomly selecting 3.5 million households annually to participate. The information collected is used to make decisions about federal spending, while local governments use it to update statistics on such things as employment, housing and jobs.

If you receive a survey, you can check its legitimacy by contacting the Census Bureau’s regional office in Denver at 1 (800) 852-6159.

The initial contact will be a letter telling you your address was selected and explaining how to complete the survey online.

If you don’t do so, you will get either an email reminder or a paper questionnaire that will be sent within about three weeks.

It’s possible the Census Bureau will call if there’s a need to clarify any information, but it will never ask for such things as bank or credit card information.

The bureau says a representative might visit you at home after normal business hours, when it’s more likely you’ll be home, to complete the process in person. But they must show a photo ID with the U.S. Department of Commerce seal and an expiration date.

Contact Ellen Marks at emarks@abqjournal.com or (505) 823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1 (844) 255-9210, prompt 5. Complaints can be filed electronically at www.nmag.gov/contact-us/file-a-complaint/.

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