Most of the time, unsolicited calls (like those from telemarketers) are simply annoying, but it’s important to recognize when the call is a scam. Recently, there have been an increasing number of illegal calls with a scam artist or even “robocaller,” a recorded voice, on the other end trying to get consumers to answer “yes” to a simple question. “Can you hear me?” has been popular lately, but other questions might be:
- Are you the homeowner?
- Are you the man/woman of the house?
- Are you the person responsible for paying the telephone bill?
Here’s how the scam works:
According to consumer complaints the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has received, fraudulent callers pretend to be representatives from service providers (a telephone company or mortgage lender for example) that might be familiar to the consumer to establish a “real” reason for calling them. If the consumer answers the call and engages in a conversation with the scammer, the crook will ask them a question to get the “yes” reply. The caller records the consumer’s “yes” response, providing the fraudster with a voice signature. This “signature” can later be used by the scammers to pretend to be the consumer and authorize unwanted charges on the victim’s utility or credit card account. Forbes reports that “fraudsters who are reaching out to you on the phone might have some of your information already. They may have a credit card number or bill in your name, possibly the result of a previous data breach from a retailer or other company.”
The Federal Communications Commission provides tips for ensuring you and those you care about don’t become victims of a phone scam:
- Don’t answer blocked or unknown phone numbers. Let them go to voicemail.
- Hang up immediately if the caller asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls. It’s often a recording and scammers typically use this tactic to identify, and then target, live respondents.
- Consider registering your phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry at DoNotCall.gov
- If you do answer and engage in a conversation, and believe it’s a scam, write down the phone number and report the incident to the Federal Communications Commission at ConsumerComplaints.fcc.gov
- Filing a report about your experience helps the FCC identify trends and track issues affecting consumers.
- Ask your telephone company if it has a robocall blocking service. If it doesn’t, request the company to consider offering this service.
Additional tips from Michigan First:
- Don’t answer personal questions and never give personal details, including name, address, financial information, account numbers, etc., to someone via an unsolicited phone call.
- If you believe your credit card or bank account has fraudulent charges, contact your financial institution or credit card provider immediately.