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Watch Out for “Can You Hear Me Now” Scam

Posted in General FAQ'S on February 21, 2017

A new scam is – allegedly – wreaking havoc across the United States. While still unproven according to Snopes, the scam represents a potential threat to some answers. Knowledge of telephone answering scams remains one of the best ways to avoid victimization. People are calling it the “Can you hear me now?” scam, and here’s what you should know.

The Scam Theory

You receive an unsolicited call. A person or recorded message on the other end of the line begins the conversation with a simple yes or no question. The most commonly asked question is, “Can you hear me?” The caller wants you to say yes to record your response and use the recording to rack up unauthorized charges or to sign up answerers for unwanted services and programs.

The Better Business Bureau released information about the scam at the end of January. In past years, scammers tried to use the question to manipulate businesses into paying for unauthorized purchases. Today, con artists are targeting individuals with the same ploy.

Does the Scam Work?

In theory, the scam could lead to falsified recordings, intimidation tactics, and signups for unwanted products. However, no reports so far indicate instances of successful identity theft or major purchases. Without sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other data, scammers can’t do much with the recording unless a caller gives over the sensitive information.

Even if someone instinctively answers yes to an unsolicited call and question, the scammers probably can’t do much with the recorded information. The answer might, however, open the door to further harassment and intimidation tactics.

Protect Yourself from the Scam

Everyone can take steps to protect themselves from the potential damage in this type of scam. A few of which include:

  • Most modern phones feature caller ID. Do not pick up a call if you don’t recognize the number.
  • Do not answer yes or no questions from unsolicited callers. While many people feel guilty about hanging up on a caller, you may want to if you hear any yes or no question on the other end of the line.
  • Keep an eye on financial accounts. If you were contacted and you did answer “yes” to an unsolicited call question, keep a close eye on your accounts for a few weeks. While media reports do not indicate any instances of financial loss or identity theft, the scam may involve more than authorities currently know.

Telephone Scams and Criminal Law

If the scam is a hoax, any perpetrators caught may face harassment charges and civil claims. If, however, scammers find a way to use someone’s answer to steal and use sensitive information, the crime turns into a form of fraud or identity theft. The FTC typically prosecutes telemarketing fraud charges, since scams typically take place across state lines. Individuals guilty of fraud may face time in prison and fines associated with the scope of the crime and the amount of information and/or money stolen.

Other Types of Scams to Beware

Every year, scammers try new techniques to trick unwitting people into handing over sensitive information over the phone or online. Around tax season, some pose as the IRS or state government and send letters or make calls to ask taxpayers for payment information. They may also award victims false prizes and ask for payment information to cover miscellaneous fees or deposit money into a bank account.

No legitimate organization will make an unsolicited call and demand payment or ask for sensitive information. If something seems suspicious, ask for the caller’s information. Hang up and research the number and the caller before agreeing to provide any information over the phone.