Amazon Sues Over Fake Alexa Tech Support Apps
Amazon is suing two companies for targeting Alexa voice assistant users with a “widespread tech support fraud” scheme. The tech giant is accusing U.S.-based Robojap Technologies India-based Quatic Software Solutions of tricking people away from real tech support by misusing its logo and other images.
Amazon is accusing both companies of lying about its services and using its trademarks without permission to lure customers to its traps. According to Amazon’s lawsuit, the two companies used fake Amazon websites and apps to offer people help with setting up Alexa. The fake apps and websites would pretend to be downloading setup software, followed by a phony error message suggesting calling a customer support number. The people answering the support number would try to get permission to control the user’s computer and urge them to buy a $150 protection plan or other false help, after which the technical problems would suddenly vanish. Amazon filed the lawsuit after receiving several complaints sent by people tricked by the companies.
“Amazon works hard to protect our customers, and the blatant misuse of our brand to deceive unsuspecting customers setting up their new device is appalling,” Amazon said in a statement.
Since Amazon filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Quatic Software’s website has been removed, but Amazon says that Robojap Technologies, whose website is still up, managed Quatic. Google Play Store apps used by the companies to scam users, including Setup Guide for Echo and Echo Setup Instructions & Guide, are also no longer available. Robojap’s website includes a disclaimer saying it is unaffiliated with Amazon and a list of other major tech companies, but that may not be enough to save it from accusations of misleading people in a civil case. The official complaint alleges trademark infringement, false advertising, and cybersquatting.
This isn’t the first time this kind of scam has arisen. The iOS app Setup for Amazon Alexa from One World Software hit the top 10 in the Utilities category at the end of 2018. The fake helper asked people for their IP address as well as device serial number and a name. That data would then be used to leverage even more personal information for whatever use the scammers chose. The rapid rise and fall of that app points to how seriously tech companies take these kinds of scams and how hard they are to eliminate permanently.
Stories like this matter a lot when it comes to voice assistants. Security is consistently cited as a reason people don’t use or limit their use of voice technology, and companies like Amazon want to raise people’s trust in Alexa and other voice assistants. People often fixate on sillier security risks like a laser hacking a smart speaker, but fake apps and phishing scams are genuine cybersecurity problems. If people associate those scams with voice assistants, they’re less likely to want to integrate the technology into their lives the way Amazon hopes they will.