Package with mystery watch alarms Phoenix-area family

One security expert Arizona's Family spoke to said there is a possibility the watch contains malware from a hacker.
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 6:00 AM MST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2023 at 9:53 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A watch arrived in the mail addressed to Christa Kent. It had no brand name, but the box looked legitimate. It was labeled simply “Smart Watch.” At the time, Kent says she thought it was a gift from a friend or relative. “It was kind of like a rose gold with a pink band, and I was like, ‘Perfect!’ You know, it kind of fits me. I don’t wear watches, but I thought I could try this out,” said Kent.

After she charged the watch and turned it on, Kent says the watch did something odd. “So then all of a sudden it’s linking to my phone without me saying, ‘Go ahead and link to my phone,’” said Kent.

At that point, she says she started calling friends and relatives to find out who sent the gift. Nobody she knew claimed credit. She looked up the address the package came from. It was close to Los Angeles International Airport. “It was like a customs drop-shipping place. And when I called the number, they didn’t answer. And I called several times. And it just rang and rang and rang and rang,” said Kent.

Arizona’s Family Investigates took the watch. We could not duplicate what happened to Kent’s phone. But one security expert we spoke to said there is a possibility the watch contains malware from a hacker. “Why would they give you something for free? Well, one of the reasons would be to hide malicious software on it, in hopes that you plug it into your devices,” said Ken Colburn, who is a founder of the Data Doctors and is a cybersecurity expert.

Colburn says the watch could pair to a phone or computer and load software that could begin recording information like passwords and financial information. The most common way something like this happens, according to Colburn, is through phishing emails. So achieving that through a free smartwatch sent in the mail would represent a new tactic for hackers. “There’s certainly a technical possibility for that. The feasibility of that I think is a little less likely. Simply because there’s a hard cost to the scammer for the piece of hardware,” said Colburn.

At this point, Kent has not noticed any suspicious activity she could trace to her brief encounter with the mystery watch. Her bank accounts and credit cards have been normal. But she says she still feels like she fell for a scam. “Here’s the thing, when I got it I was like, ‘Woo hoo! I got a smartwatch!’ You know. So that’s the scam, right?” said Kent.