the edge of “can you hear me?” scam

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Stephen Lesavich, PhD, JD   @SLesavich

Beware of the new “Can you hear me?” phone scam

This new scam begins when you receive a robocall or a live call from a number you do not recognize.

The call is a recording that says something like, “This is Jane from customer service, can you hear me?”

For most people their natural response is to say “yes.”

A recording of your own voice saying “yes” is made by the scammers.

You may be also asked to provide additional information such as your name, phone number, address, etc.

The recording of you saying “yes” can then be used to make unauthorized purchases of goods and services where a voice confirmation is required.

In addition, the scammers may also call you back and demand payment for some imaginary goods or services you have supposedly purchased.

If you indicate that you do not know anything about the imaginary purchases, the scammers will playback your “yes” recording of your voice.

The scammers threaten arrest or legal action against you if you do not provide immediate payment information because you have used the imaginary services or have the imaginary goods in your possesion and have not paid for them.

Do not fall for this scam!!

What can you do to avoid the “can you hear me?” scam?

1.  If possible, do not answer any call from a number you do not recognize.  Let the call go to voice mail.  If it is a legitimate call, you can always return it after listening to the voice mail.

2. If you do answer the call, do not speak any answers to any questions.  Do not say “yes.”

3. If the person is a live person, do not say your name or give out any personal information or verify any information such as your name, phone number, address, etc.

4. Never give in to the threat of arrest against you.  If you were going to be arrested, the police or other law enforcement agency must have an arrest warrant.  Arrest warrants are issued by a judge only when the police or law enforcement agencies have proven to the satisfaction of the judge that there is enough evidence for you to be arrested.  None of these scammers are ever going to get an arrest warrant based on a recording of your own voice saying “yes.”

5. Never give in to the treat of legal action against you.  Even if actual goods or services were illegally obtained with your “yes” voice recording and the debt is in the hands of debt collector, you have legal rights that allow you to contest any illegal purchases made in your name. If things should get this far, indicate the debt is disputed and demand the caller provide you with evidence of the debt in writing by postal mail and end the conversation. See this post for more information.

If the caller is from a legitimate debt collection agency, they will already know your address and phone number.  So DO NOT verify your phone number or provide your address or any other personal information on the call.  Just ask for a response in writing and hang up.

6. If the threats continue, contact your local police department and have them create an incident report to document the threats.

7.  In many states, unauthorized recording of a conversation is a crime unless both parties give consent.  However, in other states, only one party must give consent to record the conversation.

Here is nice state-by-state summary of consent requirements for recording phone conversations.

So the scammers may be violating the laws of your state by recording your “yes” response, depending on the state you live in.

The scammers are also likely violating U.S. Federal wiretapping laws by recording your voice if they have made the recording of your voice in a state different in which you reside (i.e., is an inter-state call).  Thus, U.S. Federal Law and the state law of two different states will apply.

Under U.S. Federal law any communication intercepted for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortuous (i.e., harmful) act is a violation of 18 U.S.C. §2511(d).

Thus, the scammers could be fined or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both under 18 U.S.C. §2511(d)(4).

If you can hear me, do not fall for this new scam.

Join the conversation on this topic by leaving me comment below or join me on @SLesavich with the hashtag, #canyouhearmescam.

Out There on the Edge of Everything®…

Stephen Lesavich, PhD

Co-author of the award-winning and best-selling book:  The Plastic Effect:  How Urban Legends Influence the Use and Misuse of Credit Cards.

Regular columnist: Positive Impact Magazine

Follow Stephen Lesavich, PhD on Twitter @SLesavich

Copyright © 2017, by Stephen Lesavich, PhD.  All rights reserved.