Roku doesn’t charge new device owners an activation fee, registration fee, or to create an account. Roku also does not charge consumers for providing technical support. However, with the platform as popular as it is, there are some out there who look to scam Roku device owners and one of the more common ways is to ask for payment to activate a device.
Roku is an extremely popular TV platform in the U.S. with the company catering to tens of millions of active users each month. One of the reasons for its popularity is the variety of devices at different price points. Another reason is the ease of use of the platform. When taken together, the low entry cost and the user-friendly experience makes a Roku device a great option for those new to streaming.
However, with such an appeal to those streaming for the first time, it also means there’s likely to be an increased number of new device owners who are likely to fall for the Roku activation fee scam.
How the Roku activation fee scam works
The scam revolves around issues when activating a device, although there are multiple ways that consumers can fall victim. The first is when purchasing a Roku device from a third-party seller, through an online marketplace, or purchased as a used or refurbished device.
In instances like these, a consumer may find that when they try to power on the device and set it up, they are presented with an error message and a number to call for technical support. However, when the consumer calls the number, they are typically told that there is either a fee to activate the Roku or a charge for the help.
Again, Roku does not charge an activation fee and does not charge for technical support.
A second common way has the potential to affect anyone who buys a Roku device, regardless of where from or whether it is new or used. As Roku devices require a free account to be created and logged in to, it is common for consumers to activate their Roku device with a code that’s entered on the Roku website.
Naturally, some consumers may use a search engine to quickly find a link to the Roku website instead of manually entering the URL listed on the Roku’s setup screen. Alternatively, some users may simply search for something like “Roku support” when encountering issues during the setup process.
Regardless of the key phrase used and whether it is to link an account or seek help, the scam works through the creation of copycat Roku sites that appear high up on search pages. Once a consumer clicks through to the official-looking but unofficial Roku site, any data or information they enter is open to being stolen and used by the scammers.
In addition, the device owner may once again be prompted with an error message asking the user to call to activate, verify, or get further information on fixing an issue. Typically, this once again ends in the consumer being told there is an activation or support charge.
Again, Roku does not charge anything to activate a device or for technical assistance when needed.
For reference, the authentic Roku link for entering the code displayed on a TV is https://my.roku.com/link.
Roku can include payments, but not during setup
For clarity, consumers can link a payment option to their Roku account and can actually purchase services or content through their device. Therefore, it is important to understand that the Roku platform can include charges.
Roku as a platform is free. It is free to create a Roku account and it is also free to use the software and install a variety of channels. In fact, Roku device owners can even watch a selection of movies and shows for free through The Roku Channel.
However, Roku does also offer the option to subscribe to premium networks. The benefit of this is that consumers can add multiple subscriptions to their account while Roku takes care of the payments and bills the user for the cost. This doesn’t save subscribers anything with the subscription prices typically the same as they would be without Roku, but it does mean consumers don’t have to set up multiple accounts with different streaming services and manage them all in different locations.
Due to this, Roku does offer the option to add a payment option when setting up a free Roku account for the first time. However, there is no fee for setting up the account or to activate and use the device. Consumers don’t even need to add any payment details and can skip that part of the account creation if they want.
What to do after paying a Roku activation fee
This scam unfortunately seems to work far more often than it should and therefore, a number of consumers are paying the fee. The scam is so common that Roku has an official ‘before you buy’ support article advising consumers to be aware of the problem. Furthermore, it also has a dedicated section for what consumers should do if they have paid money to a fraudulent company.
In these instances, Roku suggests to:
- Call your credit card company and ask to have any associated charges reversed.
- Check your bank and credit card statements for inaccuracies.
- Remove any software that this company may have installed on your computer, and change any passwords for programs used on your computer that was accessed by this company.
- Change the password on your Roku.com account.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission website and file a complaint about the experience.
In addition, Roku also requests that consumers email firstname.lastname@example.org with the URL, phone number, and the search terms used to find the site, if any.
In May 2020, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued its own warning to further draw attention to the scam and to help people from falling victim in the future. For those who have already made a payment to someone they believed to be a Roku representative, the BBB makes a number of similar recommendations to Roku, as well as a few additional ones.
In these instances, the BBB suggests to:
- Email Roku (email@example.com)
- File a complaint with Better Business Bureau to alert BBB of the occurrence
- File a complaint with Federal Trade Commission
- Be sure to include the following information in any complaint: the website address of any fraudulent website, any phone numbers that you were prompted to call, details about how you were approached to pay the fee to install your Roku device.
How to avoid falling for the scam
While it seems easy enough to avoid a scam like this, the frequency of reports in the past, as well as recent reports, highlights that it is not always so simple to avoid.
As part of the BBB’s warning, the organization advises that “If you see an error message, make sure that you are calling Roku and work with them directly” and that appears to be one of the best ways to avoid the scam.
The same is true when attempting to access the Roku website to link an account or for support. While using a search engine is going to be more convenient, it is that convenience the scammers count on for the Roku activation fee scam to work. At a minimum, make sure any web pages the search engine directs to are part of the official roku.com domain.
To avoid any issues at all, and providing the device itself has not been previously compromised and sold to an unsuspecting buyer, the best option is to manually type in the URL shown on the screen.
Roku activation fee scam summary
For existing Roku device owners, the activation fee scam is likely to be old news. However, Roku is continuously appealing to more consumers and gaining new users every quarter. Furthermore, there are still user reports coming through detailing that the scam is not only alive and well, but people are paying the fees.
As that appears unlikely to change anytime soon, consumers can protect themselves by understanding that Roku does not charge new device owners an activation fee, registration fee, to create an account, or for technical support. If you are ever asked to pay a Roku activation fee, don’t pay.