MILWAUKEE, WI — The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about an old scam with a new twist. The “Can you hear me?” scam has long been used to coerce businesses into purchasing office supplies and directory ads they never actually ordered, but now it’s targeting individual consumers.
BBB has seen recent reports to BBB Scam Tracker about this type of scam. Consumers say the calls are about vacation packages, cruises, warranties, and even Medicare cards. So far, none have reported money loss, but it’s unclear how the scams will play out over time or if the targets will be victimized later.
How the scam works
In the original version, which may still be around, you got a call from someone who almost immediately asks, “Can you hear me?” Their goal is to get you to answer “Yes,” which most people would do instinctively in that situation. There may be some fumbling around; the person may even say something like, “I’m having trouble with my headset.” But in fact, the “person” may be a robocall recording your conversation… and that “Yes” answer you gave can later be edited to make it sound like you authorized a major purchase.
In this new twist, the caller may say, "Is this [your name]?" or some other question where the answer will be "Yes." Here are some recent examples.
“Wanted for me to answer “yes” to did I receive my new Medicare card. I was all set with my cards & told him so. He just hung up. I redialed the number to check if it was Medicare. No such number in service.”
“Can you hear me? Robocall. Caller asked if I could hear him and when I said yes... I believe my response was recorded.”
“I received a call from an unknown number, I have been applying for jobs so I answered, the caller said “Hello?” I said “Hi” and then the woman said “Hello? Can you hear me?” I said “Yes, this is ******* ****” then the caller disconnected. I tried to call the number back but it would not connect and said the number was not valid."
BBB offers the following advice:
- Use Caller ID to screen calls, and consider not answering unfamiliar numbers. They will leave a message if it's important, and you can call back.
- Just hang up. If someone calls and asks, “Can you hear me?” or "Is this [your name]?" 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 helps track down scammers.
- Join the Do Not Call Registry (DoNotCall.gov) to cut down on telemarketing and sales calls. This may not help 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. Checking your telephone and cell phone bills is also a good idea. Scammers may use your voice's “Yes” recording to authorize charges on your phone. This is called “cramming,” and it’s illegal.