Don’t say ‘Yes’ when robocall scam rings

A new report on the say “Yes” telephone call scam we talked about back on February 6th.

Anyone who still has a traditional home phone (myself included) dreads those irritating robocalls. As part of the latest scam, the caller, instead of mentioning who they are, simply asks “Can you hear me?” That seemingly innocent question could be a sign that a scammer is on the other end of the line.

The Federal Communications Commission issued a consumer alert against just such scammers yesterday, Monday, March 27, 2017. When you reply and say, “Yes,” that you can hear the scammer, your reply is recorded and used to authorize fraudulent charges via telephone on the victim’s utility or credit card account, the FCC says.

The scam must be much more prevalent, based on complaints the agency has received and from news reports across the U.S. The fraudulent callers may even try to impersonate familiar organizations to get you to answer and talk.

“Robocalls are the number one consumer complaint to the FCC from the public. And it’s no wonder: Every month, U.S. consumers are bombarded by an estimated 2.4 billion robocalls,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week at the agency’s March meeting, during which the commission voted to begin a rulemaking process to eliminate robocalls. “Not only are unwanted robocalls intrusive and irritating, but they are also frequently employed to scam our most vulnerable populations, like elderly Americans, out of their hard-earned dollars.”

What should you do?
According to the FCC, if you receive this type of call, immediately hang up. If you have already responded to this type of call, review all of your statements such as those from your bank, credit card lender, or telephone company for unauthorized charges. If you notice unauthorized charges on these and other types of statements, you have likely been a victim of “cramming”.

Anyone who believes they have been targeted by this scam should immediately report the incident to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker and to the FCC Consumer Help Center.

Now back to my thoughts on this “Scam”…
At first glance, this warning sounded reasonably valid: major news outlets covered it as recently as last night on the 6:00 ABC news hour. But just because the media is running around reporting that the sky is falling doesn’t mean you have to duck for cover. A closer examination of the purported scam reveals some questionable elements.

First, we’ve yet to identify any scenario under which a scammer could authorize charges in another person’s name simply by possessing a voice recording of that person saying “yes,” without also already possessing a good deal of personal and account information for that individual, and without being able to reproduce any other form of verbal response from that person.

Moreover, even if such a scenario existed, it’s hard to imagine why scammers would need to utilize an actual audio recording of the victim’s repeating the word “yes” rather than simply providing that response themselves. As far as we know, phone companies, utilities, and credit card issuers don’t maintain databases of voice recordings of their customers and use them to perform real-time audio matching to verify identities during customer service calls.

So – once again, I believe the media is simply reporting on something they found on the wire without doing any due diligence as to the authenticity of the scam. Even though the FCC has issued an alert – it’s not backed up by any concrete, documented evidence of people actually getting scammed. It’s simply the result of people reporting that they got the “Can You Hear Me” phone call and are worried about what to do next. To answer that question, the FCC has provided the following information.

Directly from the FCC website (web link below)
Consumers should always be on alert for telephone scams. The following tips can help ward off unwanted calls and scams:

• Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.

• If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target, live respondents.

• If you receive a scam call, write down the number and file a complaint with the FCC so we can help identify and take appropriate action to help consumers targeted by illegal callers.

• Ask your phone service provider if it offers a robocall blocking service. If not, encourage your provider to offer one. You can also visit the FCC’s website for information and resources on available robocall blocking tools to help reduce unwanted calls.

• Consider registering all of your telephone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry.

Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker:
https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us

FCC Consumer Help Center
https://www.fcc.gov/consumers

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