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If a Caller Asks You Any of These Questions, Hang Up Right Away, Officials Warn

A new take on an old scam is using updated tactics to trick victims.

Even though connecting to a call is one of the most basic features of most phones, deciding whether or not to pick them up is unquestionably complicated. The seemingly never-ending rush of telemarketers, robocalls, and other spammers is already irritating enough without having to deal with the potential scammers who also work their way into the mix. Unfortunately, we can sometimes let our guard down and answer when we shouldn't. But now, officials are warning that you should hang up right away if a caller asks you specific questions. Read on to see what inquiries you should consider an immediate red flag.

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Officials warn there's a new wave of "say yes" scam calls making the rounds.

man confused while talking on the phone
fizkes / Shutterstock

No matter who's on the other end, it's not uncommon for many phone calls to begin with a question. But if you're not careful, you could fall victim to an updated scam making the rounds.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), there has been an increase in reports of "can you hear me?" calls targeting the general public. As the name suggests, the ploy typically works by someone picking up a call to someone on the other end immediately asking if the recipient can hear them. The caller might even add other statements to keep the target on the line, like "I'm having trouble with my headset."

While this might not seem out of the ordinary, the simple yet disarming question is being used by scammers to get their target to say the word "yes." Unfortunately, this can set the victim up to receive a lot more bogus phone calls. In some worst-case scenarios, scammers can even record the response and use them to make unauthorized charges, according to the Minnesota State Attorney General's office.

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The latest examples appear to combine a few different scams into one.

scammer on phone
Artem Oleshko / Shutterstock

Like many scams, "can you hear me?" calls have evolved over the years. But one of the more worrying elements of the latest set of examples is that they might be advancing in their tactics by combining the simple question with other ploys.

In one recent example, one Wisconsin woman said she received a call claiming to be from her cable and internet company, local Green Bay ABC affiliate WBAY reports. It began with them asking for simple account details, including if she could verify her address. And while she was wary of the caller—and even knew to avoid saying "yes" to any of their questions—something happened that caught her off guard.

"It sounded like it was disconnected, and I said, 'Hello,' then they come on and then it went out, and then it clicked back on. They said, 'Can you hear me now?' I let my guard down and I said yes, and then they hung up," she told WBAY.

The woman says she immediately called her cable company directly to verify the previous call, which did turn out to be a scam.

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Officials warn you to hang up immediately if you hear a few specific questions.

Woman sitting on couch holding phone to her ear and looking thoughtful

Asking "can you hear me?" might work as a basic and effective way to get someone to say "yes" on the phone. But similar to the cable company combination scam reported in Wisconsin, crooks are beginning to expand their repertoire when it comes to questions.

According to the BBB, some versions ask important, upfront questions like "Did you receive your Medicare card?" Other scammers may pose as customer service representatives or follow up surveys, asking: "Did you recently shop at [popular retailer]?"

Still others remain relatively direct, with one attempting to get a "yes" from targets by asking, "Is this the best number to reach you on if we get disconnected?" And some even incorporate personal information, including using your name or your phone number to ask if they've reached the right person.

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Here's how to protect yourself from these phone-based scams.

Close up image hand of woman using her mobile smartphone

Even though such phone scams are designed to catch victims off-guard, there are a few ways to protect yourself from identity theft. The BBB suggests using your caller ID to screen all incoming calls and avoid any unknown numbers—even if they look like they're local. Anyone who genuinely needs to get in touch with you can leave a voicemail that you can respond to.

If you do pick up the phone, the BBB suggests hanging up right away if they ask "can you hear me?" or use other simple questions designed to get you to say "yes." And as shown by the most recent incidents, they also point out that the questions or order can often change to try to catch victims off guard.

Once you're off the line, you can report any suspicious calls to the BBB Scam Tracker to help prevent any future incidents. And whether or not you're afraid a scammer has targeted you, experts suggest always keeping an eye on your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious charges or activity.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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