Telephone scam: say ‘yes’ and you’re gone

CANBERRANS are being warned of a new telephone scam currently sweeping the US and is set to hit Australia.

People are urged to hang up if their phone rings and someone asks: “Can you hear me?” as their answer to this simple question from an unknown caller could make them a victim of a scam, says call-blocking device manufacturer CPR Call Blocker.

The company says the scammer recording of a resident simply saying “yes” can be edited to make it sound like the person has authorised a major purchase.

“It’s effectively a verbal contract, just like clicking ‘I agree’ on a computer,” says spokesman Kris Hicks. “It’s called a voice signature and is used legitimately by companies to show that you’ve agreed to some sort of a change, usually an upgrade in some sort of plan.”

He says the company says it has seen this scam rise in frequency in the US and says it’s just a matter of time before fraudsters start using it in Australia.

“In one variation of the scam documented in the US, the criminals may pretend to be from a holiday or home security company and will later bill you for products or services you never asked for,” says Hicks. “If you try to deny the charges, the scammers will play back your verbal confirmation ‘yes’ and threaten to take legal action if you don’t pay.

“In another variation, scammers may use the recording to authorise charges on a stolen credit card or with a utility company by tricking an automated system. The con artists may have already stolen other personal information through a data breach that would allow them to pass the security checks.”

Hicks urges people to simply put the phone down to unsolicited callers who pose that question.

“Victims in the US have received a phone call from a familiar local area code and the other person on the other end of the line introduces themselves and their business. After the introduction, the person asks: ‘Can you hear me?’ if the victim replies with ‘yes’, their response will be recorded for criminals to use,” he says.

“I know that people think it’s impolite to hang up, but it’s a good strategy. If you don’t recognise the number, don’t answer. And if you do pick up, and they instantly start asking: ‘Can you hear me? Are you there?’ as if they are trying to get you to say ‘yes’ to something, don’t say anything and hang up. It’s fishy, don’t fall into the trap.

“In our experience of working across the US and UK, scams quickly spread globally so it is sensible for people in Canberra to be on their guard as we have no doubt that fraudsters operating in Australia will soon start using these tactics.”

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