You answer the phone and the person on the other end says, "can you hear me?" Seems harmless -- in fact, it happens all the time, so why would you think anything of it?
That's exactly why criminals behind a new scam are using it as a ploy to trick unsuspecting consumers.
In fact, it's actually a new twist on an old scam that was often carried out against businesses, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Beware of new 'can you hear me' phone scam
The idea of this phone scam is aimed at getting people who answer the call to say the word "yes."
It may not seem like a big deal at the time, but it's what the criminals can do later with that recording that's dangerous to you, your information and your identity.
Once they have a recording on file of your voice saying "yes," scammers can then use it to authorize unwanted charges on bills, credit cards and more.
"You say 'yes,' it gets recorded and they say that you have agreed to something," Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America, told CBS News.
The caller may also ask you to press a button to be placed on the "do not call" registry, which is just a way for the crooks to find out if the number they called is active.
Bottom line: So don't say anything and don't press any buttons -- just hang up!
Other ways the scammers might get you to say 'yes'
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, you should always be skeptical of anyone who tries to get you to respond with a simple "yes."
For example, here are a few ways scammers might get you to say it:
- Can you hear me?
- Are you the lady of the house?
- Do you pay the household phone bill?
- Do you pay the household bills?
- Are you the homeowner?
You should be skeptical of any yes or no question that has no context provided by the caller.
The safest thing to do is to just hang up.
What scammers can do with a recording of you saying 'yes'
How can crooks cause any damage if you didn't provide your credit card number or other info over the phone?
They have your phone number and you saying "yes," which is often all they need to get the phone provider to pass through third-party charges.
Plus, the crooks may have already gotten their hands on some of your personal information through some other type of data breach. For example, they may have your cable bill or credit card number -- and then when you dispute the charges, they can counter that they have your consent recorded.
How to protect yourself
If you think you may have already been a victim of this scam, check all of your statements line-by-line -- including your checking account, credit card, cable bill, phone bill, utility bill and any other bill or account that contains your personal information and/or payment info.
If you see any charges you don't recognize, call the billing company immediately and dispute the transactions. Also call your bank to make sure they are aware of what's going on.
If you want to register your phone number on the government's legitimate Do Not Call Registry, you can do so at DoNotCall.gov. But while that may stop real telemarketers and businesses from soliciting you, it won't stop scammers.
So if you're already on the list and a caller gives you the option to register for it, you'll know that's a crook on other end of the line.
Tips from the BBB to protect yourself against this scam:
- 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 bbb.org/scamtracker 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 (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. That 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.
More tips to protect yourself from common smartphone scams
Crooks are increasingly using not only phone calls to carry out scary scams, but also text message and email. So in order to protect yourself and avoid getting caught off guard, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
- Take time to research the organization.
- Check them out on bbb.org, search online, etc.
- Never provide your personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know.
- Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
- If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank, utility company, etc., call the business directly using the number on your bill or credit card.
- Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
- Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the emergency.
Read more: Don't fall for these common smartphone scams