New scam sweeping the nation

OKEECHOBEE — If you get a phone call and the caller asks: “Can you hear me?” Hang up.

If you get a phone call and the caller asks: “Are you the man/woman of the house?” Hang up.

Or, if you get a call and the caller asks: “Are you responsible for the household bills?” Hang up.

These are just three scenarios used by scam artists to do only one thing: Get you to give an affirmative answer.

The answer can be yes, sure or OK — it doesn’t matter. Just so it’s affirmative.

Why?

It’s very simple, this scam that’s now making its way across the U.S. is called the ‘can you hear me scam?’ Its premise is this: If you give an affirmative answer to their question — such as, can you hear me — the scammer will record your yes answer.

Then, armed with you saying yes or sure, the con artist now has you authorizing unwanted charges on your phone or utility bill, or possibly a stolen credit card.

And if you try to say you didn’t agree to something, the bad guy already has your phone number and you saying “yes.”

Let’s say the bad guy has your credit card number, as a result of a data breach, and he racks up several thousand dollars worth of charges. How are you going to dispute the charge when he not only has your personal information, but your providing an affirmative answer via the recording?

What can you do?

If you suspect something nefarious is afoot, check your credit card statements closely as well as your phone and utility bills for charges with which you are unfamiliar. Call the billing company and dispute anything you did not authorize.

If the billing company says you have been recorded approving the charge and you don’t remember that, ask for proof.

If you still need help, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If the bogus charge is on your phone bill, the FTC regulates what’s known as phone bill ‘cramming.’ Also, if you have caller ID write down the caller’s phone number.

What do you do if you get a call and the caller asks one of these leading questions. The simple answer is hang up. Do not engage in conversation.

Simply put the phone on the receiver and go about your business.

If you are of the ilk that you think it’s rude to hang up on someone, then turn things around and ask: “Who are you?” “Why do you want to know?”

Trying to catch one of these scammers is virtually impossible. Nonetheless, what they are doing is illegal in several states — including Florida. The Florida statute number is 934.03(1)(a).

Assistant state attorney Don Richardson said the law is called unlawful use of communication and, simply put, it states you can’t record someone without their permission.

“If you do, it’s a third degree felony,” he said.

He went on to say violating this law is punishable by up to five years in prison.

If you get such a call, do not engage in any sort of conversation. Forget being polite and hang up.

Remember: The longer you talk, the better the chance you will unconsciously agree to something — namely, becoming a victim.

To contact the FTC, call 1-877-382-4357. Or, go online to www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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