Absolutely true there is a risk for cons. I am on high alert for my mother getting conned by all manner of “Nigerian princes” or email attacks. I talk to her about it constantly, and have her rightfully worried enough that anytime something even slightly unusual comes up, she asks me first.
Except once - she clicked on some link or ad on a site and it brought up a popup window with a loud audio alert warning her that her computer had been infected and that she needed to call a phone number to solve the problem. Needless to say, she was a perfect mark for this scam. She dutifully called the number, was warned about how bad of a virus situation she now had on her iMac, and dutifully handed over her credit card information to pay for the $350 service which would “rid her iMac of the virus”.
She felt terrible once she realized she had been scammed and we were able to get the bank to cancel the charge and replace her card. It’s those kinds of scams I worry about with her, not a con person hacking into her personal Echo Dot. I suppose it’s possible, but it would require a tool that hasn’t been identified yet on Boing Boing. I read this blog every day, so if that tool is identified, I’ll be removing the Echo Dots from her house.
As for Amazon itself, I can’t imagine they would stoop to any cons beyond suggesting she put a more expensive pair of comfort shoes in her cart, as the publicity blowback would be bad. But with the richest, greediest man in the world at the top of that rapacious company, I’m not naive about it and watch her and her financial habits like a hawk.
So yes, utility is high for the Echo in this case. For an elderly person, the risk is high with literally everything (driving, managing money, buying shoes), so I felt it was worth the tradeoff.