A consumer warning from the Better Business Bureau about a Texas company asking new Roku users for money to activate their device. Some Roku customers say they were threatened and pressured to pay as much as $150 after seeing an error message and phone number while setting up their device.
It was a good first quarter for Roku, the maker of smart-TVs and streaming devices, primarily because people are home and subscribing to watch Netflix and other streaming services. In its first quarter report, Roku says it added nearly 3 million new accounts. According to the better business bureau many of those new customers are getting scammed.
The Better Business Bureau warns that a Texas company, Caligeeks is somehow hacking into TVs and devices to display an error message and phone number you need to call to activate the ROKU device. 45 people report they call the number and a person tells them there’s a new policy and they have to pay a fee to get the ROKU to work. Several new Roku owners say they were scammed out of $150 charged to their credit card. Furthermore, some report to the BBB that they were pressured and even threatened to pay the money or have their ROKU deactivated.
To find out how the scam works I called the number on the screen. At first, I could not understand what the man was saying as he was speaking Hindi. Our connection was poor but he managed to explain to me in English what was happening when I said I was setting up a new device and instructed to call the number. Here's how our conversation went:
“Can I help you?"
"Yes, I’m getting an error on the screen and it says I should call this number."
"Have you paid anything to us before?"
"Then I cannot help you. You must pay for me to help you."
"How much does activation cost?"
“It’s $49 for three years”
The customer support agent went on to say the device would not work if I did not pay $49. "Okay, you are in trouble, that's why you need to pay. You can call me back or try to do it yourself," he said.
According to the company's website, Caligeeks develop software, design logos and design and maintain websites. The company has an F rating from the Better Business Bureau partly because it's only been in business for 2 years and hasn't responded to 27 complaints. The BBB also states it has contacted the company to ask for confirmation that they have some affiliation with ROKU but there has been no response.
Many of the 45 complaints filed earlier this year have been resolved and the customers have had their money returned to them.
The truth is, unless you sign up for a subscription to Netflix, Disney or some of the other streaming services, there is no charge to use or activate a ROKU device. You can buy one for about $30 and you’re good to go. If you see an error message on the screen, contact ROKU by going to the ROKU website. And report it to the Better Business Bureau.
ROKU states on its website it has no affiliation with any third-party company offering to activate a device and it is not necessary. It further states ROKU customer service representatives will never ask to access your computer, ask for date of birth, social security numbers or passwords or advise you to purchase any sort of anti-virus software.