Dozens falling victim to ‘Can you hear me?’ phone scam in Wisconsin

GREEN BAY (WBAY) -- A new phone scam is catching consumers off guard with one easy question — “Can you hear me?”

It happens so fast, that the consumer may not even realize they have become the scammer’s next victim. That’s what happened to Green Bay resident Frank Timmerman Tuesday morning.

“I usually don’t pick up if they are out-of-state, but it was from Milwaukee and I thought it could be the VA,” said Timmerman.

But little did he know, he was answering a nationwide phone scam that Wisconsin’s Better Business Bureau says has already tricked 50 in the region.

“The first words I heard were, ‘Can you hear me alright?’ and without thinking right away I said, ‘Yes.’ Then it dawned upon me right away that this was a scam,” said Timmerman.

“We think this is really concerning because they don’t have any credit card information or personal information. It seems the intent of the scam is to get a recording of that person saying the word ‘yes’,” said Susan Bach, the regional director for Wisconsin Better Business Bureau.

Bach says that “yes” recording could be edited to make it sound like you agreed to a major purchase or credit card payment. In Timmerman’s case, the scammers were calling about a vacation.

“They asked me if I had a credit card and they wanted a yes or no answer, so I said maybe,” said Timmerman.

Because Timmerman gave the scammers what they wanted, Bach said they don’t know what the scammers will do with his ‘yes’ recording. However, Timmerman did the right thing by documenting the scammer’s conversation.

Timmerman wrote down the scammer’s number. Action 2 News calls the number Tuesday afternoon and this was the response, “Thanks for calling. The survey you were called for has now finished. If you would like to be removed from our list for future calls, please press 9.

Timmerman immediately hung up the phone without pushing another button, which is exactly what he says you should do if you get a phone call asking ‘If you can hear me?’

“Say no, I guess unless you know who it is,” said Timmerman.

The Better Business Bureau suggests if you did receive a call like this, and you did answer yes, keep track of your credit card bills and bank statements. Also keep track of your phone bills, since the recording of your voice could be used to authorize purchases on your phone account.

In the past, this scam was used to trick businesses into paying for directory ads or office supplies they didn’t intend to order.

Bach said it’s also a good idea to register with the ‘do not call’ list. It may not stop scammers from calling you, but it could help in the end.

“It will help build a case against scammers or companies that violate the ‘do not call’ registry, so definitely worth your time to register,” said Bach.

The BBB further offers this advice:

     - Use Caller ID. Don’t answer calls from numbers you’re not familiar with. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.

     - Scammers change their tactics, so be alert for other questions designed to illicit a simple “yes.”

     - Write down the number and report it to the BBB Scam Tracker.

     - Get on the Do Not Call Registry at Scammers ignore the Do Not Call list, but it could reduce telemarketing calls, making it easier to notice the ones that may be fraudulent.

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