‘Can you hear me’ scam sweeps the country

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A spoken “yes” is all a scammer needs to defraud you. The latest scam phone calls that are sweeping the country are designed to empty your bank accounts.

The Better Business Bureau reports the scam works like this: You receive either a recorded call or a call from a live person who identifies the name of a business. Recent reports include calls from a home security company, a cruise line and even being associated with Social Security.

After the introduction, the recording or person will ask you if you can hear the caller clearly. If you answer yes, there is a good chance that the person has just recorded your “yes” response and can go on to insert that recorded “yes” into a forged recording indicating your agreement to sign up for a purchase or service, then call you back and demand payment.

“It’s a natural reaction to respond to such a question by stating ‘yes’ or ‘sure,’ but this is exactly what the scammer wants you to say,” president of the Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania Warren King said in a press release. “Unknowingly, victims’ responses are recorded and used as an agreement to sign up for products or services. Refusal to pay results in the caller threatening legal action, claiming assent based on the recorded response.”

If you deny having made the purchase, the scammer will play back the forged recording for you and tell you that you indeed did give your approval for the purchase. The caller will then demand immediate payment, threatening dire consequences if you don’t acquiesce to their demands.

This scam has been historically directed at businesses but has only recently been directed at consumers, according to the BBB. The BBB scam tracker has been receiving numerous complaints on the online forum reporting this scam.

But, is the scam real?

The online site Snopes.com is one of the longest-standing internet content fact-checkers. In a Snopes Jan. 27 review of the “Can you hear me” reported scam, it concluded the scam is unproven. Essentially, the organization found that while news agencies reported sources who said they had been asked the question “Can you hear me?” those sources did not say they themselves had fallen prey to the scammers.

After outlining its investigation, Snopes.com author Kim LaCapria summed up the review:

The ‘Can you hear me?’ scam for now seems to be more a suggestion of a hypothetical crime scheme than a real one that is actually robbing victims of money. In messages we left with the BBC, the FTC, and the Consumer Federation of America, we asked a question absent from all the news reports we’ve encountered about this scam: ‘Are there any documented cases of people being victimized in this manner?’ We have not yet received any affirmative response to those queries.

If you receive a call like this

If you receive an unsolicited call, robocall or otherwise, the BBB advises you just hang up. If the call is such as that described in this report, do not say “yes,” “sure” or “OK.”

The Better Business Bureau offers tips to avoid becoming ensnared by the “Can Your Hear Me” Phone Scam; the wisdom applies whether it is the described scam or something similar and includes three points as follows:

  • Don’t pick up. If it is a phone number you do not recognize, even if the area code is familiar, let it ring and go to your answering machine. If you pick-up, just hang-up.
  • Avoid engaging. Never provide personal information or confirm details to an unidentified caller. Avoid responding to questions by stating anything affirmative, such as “yes,” “sure” or “ok.” Remember that government agencies will not initiate contact by phone.

If you do fall or have fallen for this scam recently, the BBB says to keep a close eye on your account statements. If scammers do try to remove money from your accounts or place false charges on your credit card, it will be easier to recover the money the earlier you identify the loss.

Updated:  Jan. 30 – The conclusions of Snopes.com have been added to this report.

Email: rwayman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @NewsWayman

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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12 Comments

  • Mike January 29, 2017 at 10:46 am

    “A spoken “yes” is all a scammer needs to defraud you.” NOPE! If that were the case, they would say “yes” themselves and wait for the voice recognition expert in court. The only ones scammed with this are the people (SGNews and others) who fell for this being a plausible scam at all.

  • .... January 29, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Just more fake news

  • ladybugavenger January 29, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    It’s not only the question, “can you hear me?”
    My husband got a call and they said their sales pitch and asked the question, ” it’s a beautiful day, yes?” To try to get the answer yes.

    Best thing, don’t answer calls that you don’t know the number.

    It happened like 5 minutes after I told him about this scam…..and warned him to not answer calls that he doesn’t recognize. Some peoples children lol!

    • Mike January 30, 2017 at 9:33 am

      There, there. Although there are many ways the naive can get scammed out of money, this isn’t one of them. There have been no legitimate reports of anyone losing money like this…or even an explanation of how it can be done. Consider this, have you ever bought anything or any service over the phone by simply agreeing to it, without relaying your billing information, address etc? The article says, “keep a close eye on your account statements”. If you’ve given your bank account or credit card number to a stranger over the phone, you’ve got bigger problems than simply a recorded “yes.”

      • ladybugavenger January 30, 2017 at 7:38 pm

        Our identities definitely can be stolen without ever saying a “yes”

        I’m not sure that’s what happened on the phone call to my husband. Of course, he didn’t give them any info, not even his name. But of course, that’s easy to find, just google it lol

        I have found that most companies that I do business with are good about reversing fraud or wrong charges.

  • John January 30, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Fact check this with scopes.com. The author sure should have!!! I’d like to trust St. George News to get their stories right, especially when it’s so simple to do a little Google “research”.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic January 30, 2017 at 10:52 am

      The snopes.com report was reviewed and not included as its findings were inconclusive. However, John, I agree with you. The findings of Snopes have merit for our readers’ consideration. I have updated the report accordingly.
      Good input, thank you!
      ST. GEORGE NEWS
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

  • utahdiablo January 30, 2017 at 9:25 am

    We always stand pat with the answer “…*” to unknown callers….that always seems to work, no call backs on those!
    Ed. ellipsis: …*

  • wilbur January 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Snopes has LITTLE, if ANY, merit.

    They are a left-wing shill operation, designed to give cover to alt-left “facts”.

    • Mike January 30, 2017 at 8:11 pm

      Sure…this issue is rife with politics.

  • Harold S. January 31, 2017 at 2:51 am

    The best thing to say would be, ” I can hear you, now can you hear me, goodbye” and hang the phone up.

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