I know everyone already has enough to worry about, what with the world on fire and all, but you should be aware of a new wave of identify theft. What is the "Can you hear me?" phone scam? It's geared towards essentially anyone with a phone, so it'll be worth being extra vigilant about how you answers calls from unknown numbers for a while — or even whether you answer them at all.
As reported last week by KTLA in Los Angeles, the fraudsters appear to be targeting people in California and Florida this time round; in 2016, a similar scam spread throughout Pennsylvania, though authorities warn the scam could be more widespread. Victims say they received a call from an unknown number with a recognizable area code. When they answered, a voice on the other end allegedly introduced themselves and their business. The caller then allegedly asked, "Can you hear me?"; "Are you the homeowner?"; or "Do you pay the bills?" The victims' natural responses — "Yes" or "Sure" — were allegedly recorded, and then allegedly used to sign up for a myriad of things, everything from cruise lines and home security services to authorizing credit card and bill charges.
Once people were allegedly billed for services or products they never bought and contested the charge, the scammers allegedly played back their verbal confirmation and allegedly threatened legal action if they did not pay. Embarrassed or confused (or both), a number of people never reported the scams, Officer Jo Ann Hughes told WTKR.
"You say 'yes,' it gets recorded and they say that you have agreed to something," said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America, to CBS News. So how do you fight it? Just hang up instead of answering the caller's question. "I know that people think it's impolite to hang up," said Grant, "but it's a good strategy."
According to police, adhering to the following phone call protocol is the best way to avoid being pulled into the, "Can you hear me?" scam.
- Do not answer the phone from numbers you do not recognize.
- Do not give out personal information.
- Do not confirm your number over the phone.
- Do not answer questions over the phone.
Because I mean, really. We've all got enough to worry about right now. Right? Right.