“Can you hear me?”
If you are a cell phone user then you are probably very familiar with this question. When you are in the midst of a call and you lose connectivity briefly, there is a good chance you have either asked or been asked the question by the person on the other end of the line.
Doesn’t sound too harmful does it?
Well, evidently the four words are being used to scam victims in Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania.
This is how it works and how police are urging you to not allow yourself to become a victim…
If you receive a phone call from a number you do not know, you are advised to not answer it but if you really have to, then just make sure you don’t say a few simple words. If you are being scammed, you will be alerted to a person’s voice or a friendly automated recording where the person introduces themselves or their business, as soon as you pick up the phone.
“Usually it has a familiar area code,” said Officer Jo Ann Hughes with the Norfolk Police Department, who added that the familiar area code makes the victim more likely to answer.
Hughes warns you to not be fooled by the warm voice and familiar area code though. “Anytime you become victim to a crime, you just feel violated,” said Hughes.
And then, after the kind introduction, it happens. The four words are asked…
“Can you hear me?”
The natural response when asked this question is usually “yes, sure or yes I can.”
But Hughes says that is the last thing that you want to respond with. Evidently, the suspect records your voice when you say yes, and the company that they are after will bill you for products and services that you inadvertently said “yes” to. According to one variation of the documented scam, cruise lines or home security companies are some of the many industries that the suspects are involving. The Better Business Bureau documented one of the scams in October of 2016.
And then you find yourself being billed for products or services that you don’t want, but it’s too late at this point. The scammers will re-play your verbal confirmation if you try to deny the charges, and they will go on to threaten legal action if you refuse to pay.
Another scam option that these criminals have been known to execute is that of the stolen credit card. They will use the verbal confirmation of “yes,” to authorize charges on a credit card that they have stolen. Some of the previously known charges have been used with the utility company. Data breaches have allowed these con artists to steal personal information that gives them access to your finances and allows them to pass security checks.
“A lot of times, victims do not want to come forward because they are embarrassed. They feel like, ‘It was my fault. I should have known better,’ and they are just embarrassed by it all together. So we do not get a whole lot of reports, unfortunately,” said Hughes.
Be sure to follow the rules below in order to avoid being scammed:
- Do not answer questions over the phone
- Do not give out personal information
- Do not answer the phone from numbers you do not recognize
- Do not confirm your number over the phone
Authorities advise you to immediately hang up the phone and dial 911 if you feel that you are a victim to one of these calls.