Never Answer This Question When a Stranger Calls You

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Man worried while holding cell phone.
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Answering one simple question could put you at risk.

The Better Business Bureau recently released an alert about an ongoing phone scam. Once a target answers the phone, scammers will begin the call by saying “Can you hear me?”

Oftentimes, scam callers will proceed to hang up as soon as the recipient answers. Some consumers report, though, that the scammers stay on the line and ask about banking information, vacation packages, warranties or Medicare cards. Some may even impersonate a government agency, businesses like a bank or an insurance company, or some other trusted entity.

So, how does one simple question connect to a scam?

The instinctive response to “Can you hear me?” is often a straightforward “Yes.” That “yes” is the goal. It can be edited and used to sound like you’ve authorized a major purchase.

Alternatively, the scammers may ask “Is this [your name]?” or any other question that may elicit an explicit “yes.”

The BBB says that they haven’t received any reports about monetary loss as a result of these phone calls, but they’re not sure if any victims reached out to the Federal Trade Commission instead. They’re also unsure of how these scams could play out down the road and if scammers will target their victims later on.

The best response to these types of calls is to not respond and hang up, according to the BBB.

If your answer isn’t being recorded to use for impersonation later, it may be an attempt for scammers to confirm that your number is active. This lets fraudsters know you’re a potential target for future phone scams.

The BBB has some advice to help you avoid these scams and mitigate risk. First, always use caller ID. If you don’t recognize the phone number — don’t answer. If it’s important, the caller will leave a voicemail.

As a preventative measure, join the national Do Not Call Registry by visiting DoNotCall.gov. This may not stop malicious scammers, but it should still cut down on the number of junk phone calls and texts you get. Getting fewer unrecognized calls can also make it easier to recognize a potentially fraudulent call.

You should always be on top of your bank statements as well. Be on the lookout for any unauthorized charges. If you do notice something, alert your bank and credit card company. They might be able to put a temporary hold on your accounts.

If you do get a suspicious call, regardless of whether it seems related to this particular scam, take note of the phone number and report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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