LINCOLN, Neb. — It’s not a Verizon commercial: If you receive a phone call from someone asking “can you hear me,” hang up. You’re a potential victim in the latest scam circulating around the U.S. This new “can you hear me” con is actually a variation on earlier scams - primarily directed towards businesses. It is aimed at getting the victim to say the word “yes” in a phone conversation. That affirmative response is recorded by the fraudster and used to authorize unwanted charges.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa is warning that hundreds of consumers are now reporting the phone scam via BBB Scam Tracker.
How the scam works:
You receive a recorded call from someone who provides an introduction and identifies the business or agency they supposedly represent. Recent scam reports identify the caller as being from a home security agency, a cruise line or associated with Social Security. After the introduction, the recording will ask if you can hear the caller clearly. If you answer "yes," there's a possibility that the scam artist behind the phone call has recorded you and will use your agreement to sign you up for a product or service and then demand payment. If you refuse, the caller may produce your recorded "yes" response to confirm your purchase agreement.
But how can you get charged if you don’t provide a payment method? BBB President and CEO Jim Hegarty explains, “The con artist already has your phone number and many phone providers pass through third-party charges. In addition, the criminal may have already collected some of your personal information - a credit card number or cable bill - perhaps as the result of a data breach. When the victim disputes the charge, the scammer can then counter that they have your consent on a recorded line.”
If you receive an unsolicited call from an organization or business, just hang up. If you are on the Do Not Call List and a company calls out of the blue to ask questions, it's likely a scam. Avoid responding with "yes, sure or ok."
If you are asked a similar question in a phone call or are asked to press a button to be placed on the Do Not Call Registry, just hang up the phone. Saying anything or pressing buttons when prompted may help the scam artist identify that you have an active phone number. Remember that no government agency will ever solicit for the Do Not Call Registry.
Write down the phone number of those callers violating the Do Not Call Registry and file a scam report with BBB Scam Tracker and the FTC's Do Not Call List at donotcall.gov.
Check your credit card, phone and cable statements carefully for any unfamiliar charges. If you suspect you have already been victimized, call the billing company – wheather your credit card company or your phone provider – and dispute anything that you didn’t authorize on purpose. If they say you have been recorded approving the charge and you have no recollection of that, ask for proof. The earlier you identify unauthorized charges on your accounts, the easier it will be to recover any lost money. For more tips on identifying scams and past scam alerts, visit bbb.org.