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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2019 > Get a New Device? Beware of Activation Scams

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Get a New Device? Beware of Activation Scams

With all the excitement of getting a new electronic gadget, some consumers don’t realize when they’re being tricked into paying fake activation fees by imposters posing as customer support agents.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has warned that scam artists can create phony customer service information and post it to the web, hoping that unsuspecting consumers will believe that a new policy requires a fee to activate a device. According to the BBB’s Scam Tracker, consumers have been charged between $80 and $100 for this phony service.

For example, a consumer in north-central Ohio reported to the BBB that they found a phone number online to supposedly activate a Roku streaming device. A person posing as a customer service agent falsely informed the consumer that there was a $50 “lifetime activation fee,” which the consumer paid with a credit card. In the end, the customer found out that the real Roku company had no record of the account.

According to a BBB scam alert, “Once payment is made, [the scammers] may claim there was a problem and 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.”

Here are three tips to help you avoid paying phony activation fees for your new device:
  • Watch out for phony websites and search engine listings: Con artists are creating look-alike sites with addresses that closely resemble the legitimate websites affiliated with your new device. Some scammers actually purchase ads or sponsored links to make their phony information appear higher up in your search engine results. Be careful and only use the actual website and phone number listed in your new device’s printed materials.
  • Beware of requests for payment via a prepaid money card, gift card or wire transfer service: Scammers prefer these types of payment methods because consumers have little chance of recovering the money after it’s sent.
  • Never give out your login information or allow remote access to strangers: If you need help setting up your new device, only go to the official websites and tech support contacts listed in the device’s printed materials. Be careful to spell URLs exactly as they’re listed in the official documentation and be certain that you’ve dialed the correct customer support phone number. 
Consumers who suspect an unfair business practice or want help addressing a consumer problem should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.