Beware of smart TV scams


It’s an unfortunate fact that crooks are everywhere, potentially including on your smart TV.

Smart TVs have internet connections so devices like Roku can use Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming services. But that does mean they present the same dangers as computers or smartphones, with potential access from crooks.

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Steve Kane of Akron learned this the hard way. He informed the Better Business Bureau Akron, which is issuing an alert to warn other consumers.

Kane’s problem started two years ago, although he didn’t know it at the time.

A new user of a smart TV and streaming devices, Kane bought a second-hand smart TV from a pawnshop.

When Kane went to set up the TV, a message appeared with a phone number to call to set up his Roku account. Kane didn’t know that creating his Roku account should be free.

“It was my first experience so I didn’t know it was wrong,” Kane said.

Roku warns against scams

On its website, Roku warns consumers against these scams. “Roku does not require an activation fee, registration fee, or support fee of any kind. ”

Roku said crooks use deceptive tactics, bogus websites, and sometimes pop-ups “all in an effort to convince you that you are visiting a genuine Roku website.” Some attack right away, asking for your personal information with a user-friendly pop-up chat box, while others take a passive approach and allow you to find and enter an activation code on your own before forcing you to. take action when your code is rejected.

“Some scam sites ask for an email address or phone number where they can contact you directly, while others present a ‘support phone number’ and ask you to call them. When you talk to someone posing as a “support worker,” they can often be firm and forceful, and sometimes even rude and vulgar. Regardless of their methods and manners, the ultimate goal of a scammer is to trick you into disclosing personal information and paying for the services that Roku offers for free.

A con artist took control of the television

This is what happened to Kane. The person on the other end of the phone said Kane needed to activate his account for $ 99.95. So Kane gave him a debit card number linked to his Social Security payments.

“He basically ran my television for almost two years,” said Kane, who neither paid nor received a payment request for the second year.

But when Kane recently bought another used smart TV, he couldn’t log into his Roku account. The pop-up screen with the phone number reappeared.

“He said, ‘You didn’t pay me’ and he turned off my new TV,” Kane said. “I couldn’t do anything with the remote.”

The scammer had changed his account to guest mode, took control of the TV, and told Kane that he couldn’t use the TV until he paid.

Kane said he didn’t have any money and wouldn’t have any for two weeks.

“The sad thing is if I had had the money back then I probably would have just paid the guy,” Kane said.

The scammer told Kane he would turn the TV back on, but if the payment wasn’t made in two weeks, the TV would be turned off again.

This raised red flags for Kane.

He called his daughter, who said, ‘This guy is scamming you. You don’t owe him anything.

“I unplugged the TV and then plugged it back in a few hours later, reset the TV to factory settings, and also set up my Roku with a different password and everything. I got my television back, ”Kane said.

But the con artist didn’t give in, continuing to call and threatening to turn off Kane’s television.

Kane assumes that the hacker scammed the first owner of his first TV, and then when he tried to set up the TV, he became the next victim.

Kane blames himself for not mentioning what happened to his daughter two years ago so he was able to stop the initial scam.

Kane doesn’t want others to fall victim to a con artist taking control of their TV.

He has since blocked the scammer’s phone number.

He also followed my suggestion to call his debit card provider to make sure there were no other fraudulent charges. He changed his PIN for the card and was assured by the Social Security debit card provider that the scammer would not have access to the account.

Kane has done everything Roku suggests if you are the victim of the scam, including changing his password. For more advice from Roku on this scam, go to

Don’t fall for “big discount” offers

BBB Akron put me in touch with another consumer who was also scammed with their smart TV, but in a slightly different way. Her story is also important in reminding consumers not to fall into the trap of scammers calling and claiming to represent a business or the IRS or Social Security.

The consumer, who asked not to be identified, said he fell in love with the scammer who called and said he could pay half the $ 160 a month he was paying for his AT&T Direct TV service, in addition to being able to obtain free premium channels.

But the appellant wanted the consumer to prepay his “discount prices” for six months, or $ 480. He was asked to go to a store and buy prepaid cards to give the codes to the scammer. This is often a surefire red flag of a scam, as these cards are not traceable once the scammer has the money.

The consumer said “there is no free lunch” and questioned the scammer. The crook asked him if he was close to his TV.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you Showtime first.’ I turn on the TV. He walked me through the process, “said the consumer.” He sounded like the AT&T expert.

Showtime appeared on consumer television, but once the scammer started asking for money from prepaid cards again, the consumer said he knew something was wrong.

He called AT&T directly and was told it was a scam – the fourth report the customer service rep had that day. He was told to change his password to prevent the scammer from accessing his account.

The consumer also called the BBB to report it.

I also informed the consumer that while they like to have the “free” Showtime always on their TV, they should probably contact AT&T to remove it so that the scammer does not have access to their account in some way. of another.

Christine Kellamis, COO of BBB Akron, said that while the Roku scam has been around for years, it is still of concern.

“With the shortage of TV chips, consumers can turn to second-hand equipment, not knowing they are buying pirated devices. Even if the TV is new, they really have to make sure that their devices are protected against security breaches, ”she said.

Kellamis said it’s also possible that if a scammer somehow gains access to one of a consumer’s internet-connected devices, the scammer could hack into another device through the modem or the WIFI connection.

Other smart devices “are small computers that may not be as robust in their security,” she said.

Kellamis said that it might be helpful to reset your wifi password or your modem settings if you’ve been the victim of a hacker.

“It’s quite surprising how often people keep factory settings on a modem,” she said. “Putting a code other than the factory settings can help. ”

Protect yourself

Here are some tips from the BBB to protect yourself from smart device scams:

• Quickly install software updates released by manufacturers and application providers. Enable the option to automatically install updates in the TV settings menu.

• Use strong passwords for all your Internet accounts (Netflix, Facebook, etc.).

• If any unexpected messages appear on your TV screen requesting permission to pair a device or initiate a remote session, do NOT accept.

• Do not visit suspicious websites or install any suspicious programs.

• Turn off or cover your TV’s camera and microphone when not in use.

• Consider investing in IoT cybersecurity, which is explicitly designed to detect vulnerabilities in IoT devices (including smart TVs) and to prevent devices from sending unencrypted data across the Internet.

• Use a unique password to secure your wireless access point to prevent unauthorized changes to security-related settings.

• Implement encryption on your wireless access point to secure your network signal.

• Use a hard-to-guess password for your wireless network.

• Activate the firewall setting of your wireless access point.

• Make sure all your internet connected devices are behind your network firewall.

• Use the sleep mode button on your wireless access point or modem to disconnect your home network from the Internet when not in use.

Beacon Journal reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected] Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or at To see her most recent stories and columns, visit


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