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‘Can you hear me OK?’ Don’t answer that!

Emily Valla: BBB Alert
Emily Valla: BBB Alert

Earlier this week, a Boise man received a call on his cell phone. It showed up as a local number. As a business person, he needs to answer the phone even when he doesn’t recognize the number.

A recorded voice was on the other end: “Hi, this is Allison from the warranty department. Can you hear me OK?”

Suspicious, since he had heard of the warranty scams that circulate now and then, the man replied: “What warranty department?”

Then the exact same recording began playing again. The man hung up and called the Better Business Bureau.

This annoying phone call can be part of a spooky scam. According to BBB, answering in the affirmative is all a scammer needs to execute the latest “can you hear me?” scam. This scam has typically been directed toward businesses, but consumers are not immune.

Here’s how it works: You receive a recorded call from someone who introduces himself or herself and identifies the business or agency he or she supposedly represents. Past calls have come from scammers purporting to be home security agencies, cruise lines, business-listing companies or survey companies.

After the introduction, the recording will ask if you can hear the caller clearly. If you answer “yes,” it is possible the scam artist behind the phone call has recorded you and will use your agreement to sign you up for a product or service and then demand payment. If you refuse, the caller may produce your recorded “yes” response to confirm your purchase agreement.

If you receive a call like this, follow these tips from BBB:

▪ Just hang up, especially on robocalls. Avoid responding to questions from unknown callers with “yes,” “sure” or “OK.” Better yet, don’t respond at all. Scammers are listening for clues about you, including how old you might be and what sort of sounds are in the background. They may come back with a different, more “personalized” scam later.

▪ If you are asked a question in a phone call or are asked to press a button to be placed on the Do Not Call Registry, hang up the phone. Saying anything or pressing buttons when prompted may help the scam artists determine that you have an active phone number. Remember that no government agency will ever solicit for the Do Not Call Registry, but you can register your number at DoNotCall.gov. This will stop legitimate telemarketers and business from soliciting you, but not scammers. So, if you are on the list and get a call, you can be that much more confident it’s a scam.

BBB advises to check your account statements frequently in the event you do fall for a similar scam or provide personal information in an unsolicited phone call. The earlier you identify unauthorized charges on your accounts, the easier it will be to recover any lost money.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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