Until the end of last week, the most well-publicized scams of 2017 were spear phishing emails, which appeared to come from trusted companies including Netflix and Gmail. But on Friday, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning about a “Can you hear me?” scam that takes a completely different form.
The scam, which has no relation to the Verizon commercial (“Can you hear me now?”), involves a simple recorded phone call. According to the BBB alert, a caller will identify themselves as being from a government agency or company and will ask you if you can hear them. What they’re waiting for is your “yes.”
“If you answer ‘yes’ there’s a possibility that 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,” says the BBB warning.
Can a recording really lead to unwanted charges? Yes, says Satnam Narang, Senior Security Response Manager at Norton by Symantec. “If [the caller says] they’re from a home security agency or a cruise line company, they could say you agreed to have the service installed or accepted an offer for a cruise by splicing the recorded ‘yes’ into a clip of them asking you to authorize charges for such service.”
However, it’s unclear if the scam has actually resulted in money losses. Although various places have reported the scam, including areas of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, Snopes says that there are no reports of dollars lost. At least, not yet.
Still, as with any scam your best defense is to err on the safe side.
“If you receive a call from an unknown or blocked number, let it go to voicemail,” Narang says. “More often than not, calls from unknown numbers or blocked numbers are likely related to scams. If the call is truly important or relevant to you, they’ll be inclined to leave a voicemail.”
That way, you can forgo the risk of answering and use your iPhone’s voicemail transcription to skip a step.