Voice of the consumer: Toys can be too smart, FBI warns

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - 11 News lead Call For Action investigator Katie Pelton pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

If you are thinking about purchasing an interactive toy for your child or grandchild this Christmas, you may want to hear this alert. Smart toys that can talk and interact are becoming more and more popular. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a consumer notice in 2017 saying that internet-connected toys can present privacy concerns for children. The national nonprofit group, Call for Action, echoes that same sentiment.

“A young child is going to be talking to a toy that’s going to remember what they’re saying, it’s going to be recording it,” said Shirley Rooker, president of Call for Action. “Often times, these toys have cameras, there are microphones, they have the ability to grow a vocabulary based on your child’s use.”

Rooker told me that there have been instances of toys being hacked. Sometimes, the child’s information is stolen and they could become the victim of identity theft.

“Be wary, if you hear something on the other end talking like an adult voice to your child,” Rooker said. “There could be somebody hacked on there. It’s extremely creepy, but it does happen so you need to be aware of this.”

The FBI has some recommendations before using an interactive toy. First, consumers should research the toy and the manufacturer. Read the disclosures and privacy policies before using the toy. It should only be connected through secure Wi-Fi internet connections. Monitor your child’s conversations with the interactive toy and make sure they are turned off when not in use. You can report any complaints to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.

We have a local team of Call for Action volunteers at KKTV. If you’re the victim of a scam, or dealing with a consumer issue, you can call our volunteers at 719-457-8211.

This week, I also want to warn you about some potentially misleading mailers that are going around. A woman named Sally called me when she got a note in the mail saying she needed to file a periodic report for a rental property she owns. The report is filed with the state to keep a business current.

“They say if you send them $110, they will file the information to the secretary of state,” said Sally. “At the very bottom of this, it says in small print, periodic reports may be filed with the Colorado secretary of state for the statutory $10 fee.”

I reached out to the Secretary of State’s Office and they told me that they have been getting a handful of calls about the mailers right now, too. They have warned consumers about this in the past. The mailers are typically sent to small business owners from a third party group offering to file reports for their business if they pay a fee. However, you can do it yourself for much cheaper. All business filings, including annual periodic reports, can be filed online for $10. You can find more information on www.KKTV.com, just click on the red ‘Find It’ tab.

Hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. We’ll talk again next week!

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.