Police say answering the question “Can you hear me?” over the phone from an unknown caller can have serious consequences thanks to a new scam that is making the rounds in several states.
The scam has been reported in Virginia and Florida this year and in Pennsylvania in 2016, WNEP reported.
Authorities in Virginia say answering “yes” to the question can enable fraudsters to authorize charges to a phone, utility, or credit card bill.
Police say scammers record the “yes” response and play it back to victims who try to deny the charges while the scammers try to threaten legal action.
Law enforcement officials say the scam is a variation of one that began in late 2016.
“You say ‘yes,’ it gets recorded and they say that you have agreed to something,” Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy for the Consumer Federation of America, told CBS News. “I know that people think it’s impolite to hang up, but it’s a good strategy.”
The Pittsburgh Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported in October that consumers complained to the BBB about unsolicited automated calls from “an employee” of a home security agency, cruise line, or social security firm, Fox News reported.
Scammers used phrases such as, “Are you the lady of the house?”, “Do you pay the household telephone bills?”, or “Are you the homeowner?”
Similar calls are being reported in Virginia with scammers asking the question, “Can you hear me?”
“Usually it has a familiar area code,” Officer Jo Ann Hughes with the Norfolk Police Department told WTKR.
Police suggest taking the following steps to avoid this 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.
Police urge those who do get caught in a scam to hang up the phone and call 911 instead.
“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,” Hughes said.