Scam warning: 'Can you hear me?'

People in Yorkshire are being warned of a new telephone scam which is currently sweeping the United States and is set to hit the UK.

Thursday, 23rd February 2017, 7:31 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 9:07 am
'Can you hear me?'

Residents are urged to hang up if their phone rings and someone asks "can you hear me?".

Answering this simple question from an unknown caller could make you a victim of scam.

It works by the scammer recording you saying “yes” which is then edited to make it sound like you authorised a major purchase.

It's effectively a verbal contract, just like clicking ‘I agree’ on a computer. 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.

In one variation of the scam documented in the United States, 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.

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.

Kris Hicks, of CPR Call Blocker, makers of a call blocking device, is urging the public in Yorkshire to simply put the phone down to unsolicited callers who pose that question.

He said: “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.

“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."