Could The “Can You Hear Me” Scam Actually Be a Hoax?
If you follow the news or social media in even the slightest, you've probably seen or heard about a new and terrifying scam, which is being called the "Can you hear me?" scam.
CBS News reported on January 26th that police in Virginia issued a warning of a crazy phone scam where as soon as you answer the phone, the person on the other end asks "Can you hear me?" It's natural human instinct to answer with "Yes" if you're able to hear the person on the other end. But authorities say that's the last thing you should do. They warn to avoid saying "yes," "yeah," or anything else along those lines and simply hanging up if it's a voice you don't recognize is your best bet.
According to authorities and consumer protection groups, the reason you don't want to say "yes" is because the scammer could be recording the call and then they'll have you on tape saying "yes." If the scammer wants to really put your world into full upheaval, they'll use the recording of you saying "yes" to verify a purchase (you didn't make) when your credit card company calls to confirm that purchase.
However, this isn't the first time this particular scam has made its rounds. Authorities in Pennsylvania warned people of this scam in 2016, and so did the Better Business Bureau in October of 2016.
So is this scam for real? We hear about "scams" every day and it can be hard to differentiate between what's legitimate and what's a hoax. People tell us that we should steer clear from strangers in parking lots who want us to smell perfume samples so we'll fall unconscious and the bad guys will have their way with us (not true). And social media users are constantly told through private messages on Facebook to "...not accept a friend request from so-and-so, he/she is a hacker" (also not true). The simple answer to whether or not the "Can you hear me" scam is for real is this- we just don't know.
The thing is that while authorities and the Better Business Bureau have warned of this scam and while people have received "Can you hear me" phone calls, Snopes says that there haven't been any documented cases of people actually being scammed. As a matter of fact, Snopes did a ton of digging and they dropped this interesting little nugget:
Primarily, in all the news reports we found, interviewees merely reported having been asked the common question ("Can you hear me?") but did not aver that they themselves had fallen prey to scammers."
The "Can you hear me?" scam for now seems to be more a suggestion of a hypothetical crime scheme than a real one that is actually robbing victims of money. In messages we left with the BBC, the FTC, and the Consumer Federation of America, we asked a question absent from all the news reports we've encountered about this scam: "Are there any documented cases of people being victimized in this manner?" We have not yet received any affirmative response to those queries."
It's definitely better to be safe than sorry, though, so if you get a "Can you hear me" call from a phone number or a voice that you don't recognize, go ahead and hang up the phone without saying anything. Or, if you were raised that it's rude to just hang up on people, you could say "I'm sorry, but I don't know who you are" and then hang up. If they really know you and want to talk to you, they'll call back or find another way to reach you.
By the way, in case you ever fall victim to credit card scammers (and we hope that never happens), one of the first things you should do is reach out to the Federal Trade Commission after you contact your bank or credit card company.