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Northeast Ohio consumers targeted by smart TV, streaming service hackers

BBB of Akron issues smart TV consumer warning
N.E. Ohio consumers targeted by smart TV, streaming service hackers
Posted at 8:33 PM, Oct 28, 2021

AKRON, Ohio — Steve Kane of Akron reported a hacker-controlled a used smart TV he purchased in 2019 for nearly two years, getting his debit card number, shutting off his TV, and refusing to turn it back on if he didn't pay even more money.

Kane and the Better Business Bureau of Akron told News 5 the con-artist was able to change Kane's smart TV account to "guest mode" and take control of the set until finally, Kane was able to reset the used TV back to factory settings.

N.E. Ohio consumers targeted by smart TV, streaming service hackers
Steve Kane of Akron reports his used smart TV was controlled by a hacker for nearly 2-years

Kane said the hacker put a pop-up on the TV screen with a phone number offering to install Roku service for $99.95, but after paying, the hacker wanted even more cash months later. Kane said he didn't realize Roku could be installed at no charge.

Christine Kellamis, BBB of Akron Director of Operations, told News 5 a shortage of computer chips has more consumers buying used computer-based equipment which could be vulnerable to hackers.

“It is just ripe for consumers to experience scams on a scale they’ve never experienced before," Kellamis said.

“Kane was told ‘hey, we can help you add a streaming channel on your TV,' then they told him him ‘hey, you haven’t paid us for 20-months, and if you don’t pay me right now, guess what, I’m going to shut down your TV.'”

In a second case a Northeast Ohio consumer, who did not want to be identified, was offered free Showtime streaming services if he paid in advance for two years of AT&T premium services for his smart TV.

N.E. Ohio consumers targeted by smart TV, streaming service hackers

The consumer told News 5 the hacker on the phone was able to help him set up Showtime, but then instructed him to purchase several hundred dollars in gift cards as payment for the other premium channels. Fortunately, the consumer knew the gift-card request was a red flag and stopped the transaction.

“My only question is how did they get my information," the consumer said. “They knew exactly what my AT&T bill was, they knew my address, cell phone number, home phone number. How here they able to hack into AT&T to get me to Showtime, that’s pretty amazing.”

The BBB of Akron urges consumers not to give someone access to their accounts over the phone. Change some of the data assigned to your smart TV, like your IP address, and put a piece of tape over the camera on your Smart TV if you can’t turn it off.

Consumers should turn off their TV when it's not in use, add a firewall if you don’t already have one, download an anti-virus app onto your TV and use a non-dictionary password for your WiFi log-in that contains upper and lower case letters and special characters.

“A smart TV is a minimally protected device, it is a computer," Kellamis said. “When a manufacturer has updates for your devices make sure you get them installed.”