Have you gotten one of these "Can you hear me now?" phone calls.
No, "The Verizon Guy" (now the Sprint guy) is not ringing you up. It's a robocall scammer who wants to steal your identity and money.
Here's how it works. Your phone rings and you hear someone say "can you hear me now?" or some variation. If you say "yes," the system records your response and uses it to make it sound like you agreed to their service. You could then get hit with unexpected charges.
This scam is hot. The BBB reports that for the last few days of January more than half of the reports to the BBB scam tracker have been about this ripoff. In fact as I was writing this story I received one of these calls.
What makes it even weirder is that this new breed of robocallers uses artificially intelligent voice recognition to string you along in a conversation and get personal information out of you. In one recording the robot was programmed to laugh and say "I am a real person" when the caller asked the computer to say "I am not a robot."
"We have seen these robo calls get more sophisticated, and even mimic things like background noise and other manipulations to the audio to convince you as the recipient of the phone call that it's a real person," said Ryan Kalember, spokesman for cybersecurity firm Proofpoint.
"This will continue to open up different ways for fraudsters to try to pretend that they are us, and commit fraud that will eventually hit our pocketbooks."
Here's how to fight back:
Hang up. Resist the urge to play around with the robot or even press any numbers. Tim Marvin with non-profit watchdog Consumers Union said scammers may use any kind of a response, even a negative one, to flag which numbers are working and you may just end up getting more phone calls.
Report the number to the FTC. Real-time reported numbers are helpful for the agency in tracking the issue.
Use a call-blocking service or tool like one of these:
- For traditional landlines, Consumer Reports has several devices they've reviewed which attach like an old-fashioned answering machines
- Smartphones - Apps abound. Check the reviews and see which work best for you. For iOS try NoMoRobo. For Android try Privacy Star.
- VoIP - Also try NoMoRobo.
Sign up for the Do Not Call list.
Demand action - Ask your representative to pressure phone companies to implement robocall filtering technology on their side.