The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about an old phone scam with a new twist. The “Can You Hear Me?” scam has long been used to coerce businesses into purchasing office supplies and directory ads they never actually ordered. Recent reports to BBB’s Scam Tracker show this scam has been altered to now target individual consumers as well. This new scam has been increasing the last few weeks and is nation-wide.
“Scammers change their tactics as the public catches on,” says Frank Cilona, President of the BBB. “So as consumers become savvierand avoid providing sensitive information over the phone, this one simple question can become just as dangerous.”
The scam works when you get a call from someone who almost immediately asks “Can you hear me?” Their goal is to get you to answer “yes,” which most people will do instinctively in this situation. The BBB believes the “person” making the call may be a robocall recording the conversation, despite some reported instances of fumbling around and the caller saying “I’m having trouble with my headset.”
Scam artists can record your affirmative response to later use the recording to sign you up for a product or service and then demand payment. At this time, it remains unclear how this scam will play out over time or if consumers could be victimized at a later date. BBB warns consumers to stay vigilant.
As with all scams, there are several variations being reported. Two local consumers called your BBB to report their recent experience with this new phone scam. The first caller was asked “Did you vote in the last election” and as soon as he answered “yes”, the call ended. The second consumer was told the caller was having trouble with her head set and was then informed he had won several vacation prizes and asked “would you like to hear more?”.
Tips to avoid this scam:
- Use Caller ID. Screen calls and consider not answering unfamiliar numbers. If it’s important, they will leave a message.
- Avoid giving an affirmative response, such as ‘yes’. If someone calls and asks “Can you hear me?” or uses another question to solicit a “yes” response, just hang up. Saying anything or pressing buttons when prompted may help the scam artists identify that you have an active phone number.
- Report the call. Usebbb.org/scamtracker to help warn others. BBB shares Scam Tracker information with government and law enforcement agencies, so every piece of information is helpful in tracking down scammers.
- Use the Do Not Call Registry (DoNotCall.gov). This will cut down on telemarketing and sales calls you receive. This won’t stop scammers, but may help you recognize fraudulent calls quicker.
- Check bank and financialstatements for unauthorized charges. It is also a good idea to check your telephone and cell phone bills. Scammers may be using the “yes” recording of your voice to authorize charges on your phone. This is called “cramming” and it’s illegal.