In the past week this has happened almost every day to me: I’ll get a call at work, or on my cellphone, and when I say “hello,” nobody answers at first. I then say “hello” louder, and shortly a woman comes on saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, I was having trouble with my headset. Can you hear me now?” It sounds real, but if you say something, like “who are you?”, she doesn’t respond. It’s a trick call, clearly one meant to scam you or sell you something, but it’s nefarious. I’ve started shouting obscenities to the woman (who is actually a recording) before slamming down the phone, but I wonder if anybody else has experienced it. What are they selling?
It seems like a neat trick because it’s realistic, but it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to discover that it’s not a real person on the other end of the line, and so what’s the point?
Here’s the point. A bit of Googling turned up this, at Highya:
How the “Can you Hear Me” Scam Works:
“Your phone rings and the other person on the end of the line asks, ‘can you hear me?’” explained Lohman, a detective for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Thousand Oaks Division.
Typically, people will answer “yes.”
But that’s the exact answer these criminals are looking for. And with one little word, you can become a victim.
“The ‘yes’ response is referred to as a voice signature,” Lohman explained. “Companies will legitimately use this to show that you have agreed to a service, change or upgrade.”
However, the scammer will record your “yes” response, which allows them to authorize unwanted upgrades or services.
Scammers have become savvy with this crime, so be mindful of any question that prompts a “yes,” “sure,” or “okay” response. Some criminals might even go as far as editing your words to make it sound like you gave authorization.
“The ‘yes’ constitutes a verbal contract for additional services,” Lohman said. “It’s similar to clicking the ‘agree’ on a contract received via computer to accept additional services.”
But the scammer’s goal is to sell you products, upgrades or services you do not want, such as cruises, vacation packages, warranties or other big ticket items.
Here’s the scam I got:
However, there are ways to differentiate whether you’re receiving a call from a robot or an actual person.
Lohman learned first-hand.
“I got a call one time and it was silent for a second,” he recalled. “And then the person on the other line said, ‘oh, I’m sorry, I’m adjusting my headset’.”
The caller then went immediately into the sales pitch.
“As soon as it went into the sales pitch, I immediately hung up,” Lohman said. “I didn’t stay on the phone long enough to hear the pitch.”
If there’s a pause between you saying “hello” and the response from the caller, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. That’s because it takes a few brief moments for a computerized voice recognition system to know there’s someone on the other line.
“If you say hello and you just sit there and don’t interact and the other person continues to talk, it very well might be a scam,” Lohman said. “If I said hello, I would expect you to say hello back, like a typical conversation. I wouldn’t expect you to go into a sales pitch.”
This scam can also be detected by asking questions of the caller.
“If I start to talk and the caller on the other line is still talking over me, it’s a good chance it’s a robocall,” Lohman said.
Shouting obscenities works just as well.