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How to stop Alexa from making unauthorized online purchases

From basic commands, such as “turn up the volume,”  to complex commands such as, “give me my Flash Briefing,” there are several things Amazon Alexa can do. But this always-listening device doesn’t always get it right.

Earlier this month, we told you about some Alexa mishaps that racked up a bill for their owners. The first incident happened when a little girl asked Alexa for some cookies and a dollhouse, and Alexa placed the order. The other was when news stations began to cover the story, which caused Alexa in several homes to place similar orders.

Another incident was when NPR covered a story on Alexa, and listeners began reporting that their virtual home assistants were triggered to do things. One mentioned that the temperature of his thermostat had been changed, another complained that an NPR news summary began playing, and others began to behave strangely.

One of the main reasons these incidents occur is because Amazon Alexa is trained to respond when it hears its name. The words, “Alexa,” and “Echo” and “Amazon” are all considered “wake” words.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix to this problem. First, it’s helpful if you reset Alexa’s wake words. To do this, just open the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet and go to the Settings section. Once there, select the device you’d like to change and scroll down until you see Wake Word. Select a new wake word from the drop down menu and hit Save.

This fixes part of the problem, but for a permanent fix, you’ll need to take it one step further. The next step is to set up a confirmation code that must be entered in anytime you’d like to place an order.

To do this, go to your Settings menu and tap Voice Purchasing. One of the options listed in this section is “Require a confirmation code.” Enable “Purchase by voice,” and you’ll find a field to enter a four-digit confirmation code. Last but not least, hit Save Changes.

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