There’s a telephone call going around that's taking the classic phone scam to the next level. When you answer the unknown number, the voice on the other delays in responding. The woman giggles at her headset troubles and as the call progresses she asks if you can hear her.
Before you answer, you should know two things:
- That’s not a live person you’re speaking to—it’s a recording.
- You should never answer yes when calls from unknown numbers ask, ‘Can you hear me?’
As David Lazarus discovered when he wrote about this for the LA Times, affirmative answers on these calls can lead to big trouble. He joined Libby Denkmann to break it down.
The key is to inform yourself
"At this point, what they're fishing for is an affirmative answer and that's exactly what you should not give," explained Lazarus. "Under no circumstances do you want to say yes to this recording."
What does the 'yes' open the door to?
"The 'yes' is basically going to used as a validation for some sort of purchase or transaction that you don't want. In other words, they're going to take your voice saying 'yes' to something, they'll re-edit it and then they'll be able to use that to either make a transaction go through—or, in case you challenge a transaction, to then say, 'Ah, but we've got a recording of you, so good luck in court.'
And I know a lot of people right now say, 'Yeah, but I'm not going to give them my credit card number or my social security card numbers. What's the harm?'
Well, now think for a moment about all the times you might've seen some small $9.95 charge on your phone bill for some ringtone or some text service that you didn't order. What's happening there is: The phone company has a relationship with these third parties, the phone company does have your billing information—and so when a third party is able to get onto your phone bill, that's how this thing becomes problematic.
And if your phone company simply wants some sort of validation from the third party that you've given your assent, well, that's what's just happened here."
How is it legal?
"The onus should be on whoever is handing you the bill, whether it's the phone company or the cable company or whoever, but often times it's going to be the phone company. The onus should be on them to verify the legitimacy of any third parties before a charge makes it onto your bill.
And right now, the rules say they only need to step up and verify, in the event that something becomes challenged. Which means it's the customer that has to stand guard and look at the bills and challenge the bills, and then the phone company can be roused from its stupor to go out and see if it's actually dealing with scammers."
Is there anything on the horizon in terms of combatting this, or is it just an information campaign that you're trying to get out there to help people avoid it?
"Raising awareness is obviously a big deal, and there are certain things right now like Nomorobo, for example—which you can find at nomorobo.com. That is a free service, but it basically serves as a filter. You have to establish different phone numbers that are going to be filtered out from your line, but the scammers know this, and so they're going to be changing the lines frequently. So Nomorobo is not foolproof—[just a] step in the right direction.
The real thing is going to be when the phone companies actually are able to play whack-a-mole with these guys and track them as they move from line to line. They do have the technological wherewithal to do that right now, but they just really haven't done it, and that's because it's expensive."
To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.