The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about an old 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, but now it’s targeting individual consumers, as well.
For the last few weeks, more than half of the reports to BBB scam tracker have been about this one scam. Consumers say the calls are about vacation packages, cruises, warranties and other big ticket items. So far, none have reported money loss, but it’s unclear how the scams will play out over time or if the targets will be victimized at a later date.
Here’s how it works: 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 would do instinctively in that situation. There may be some fumbling around; the person may even say something like “I’m having trouble with my headset.” But in fact, the person may be just a robocall recording your conversation … and that “yes” answer you gave can later be edited to make it sound like you authorized a major purchase.
BBB is offering consumers the following advice:
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▪ Use Caller ID to screen calls, and consider not even answering unfamiliar numbers. If it’s important, they will leave a message and you can call back.
▪ If someone calls and asks “can you hear me?” do NOT answer “yes.” Just hang up. Scammers change their tactics as the public catches on, so be alert for other questions designed to solicit a simple “yes” answer.
▪ Make a note of the number and report it to www.bbb.org/scamtracker/central-georgia to help warn others. BBB also shares scam tracker information with government and law enforcement agencies, so every piece of information is helpful in tracking down scammers.
▪ Consider joining the Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov to cut down on telemarketing and sales calls. This may not help with scammers since they don’t bother to pay attention to the law, but you’ll get fewer calls overall. It may help you more quickly notice the ones that could be fraudulent.
▪ Check your bank and credit card statements regularly for unauthorized charges. It’s also a good idea to check your telephone and cell phone bills, as well. Scammers may be using the “yes” recording of your voice to authorize charges on your phone. This is called “cramming” and it’s illegal.
▪ Remember who owns the phone. Stopping scammers from calling you is almost impossible but ultimately, remember you own the phone so don’t allow anyone to use it as a tool to steal your hard-earned money or identity. It isn’t rude to hang up on a thief.
There is never a shortage of ways for scam artists to try to separate you from your money but with a little knowledge and a few questions, you might just be the one that gets away.
For more consumer tips, you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the fall line corridor including 83 counties in portions of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The column is provided by the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The BBB sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a company or charity should be referred to the BBB at 1-800-763-4222, www.bbb.org or by email to email@example.com.