Tactic is particularly successful with older or less tech-savvy victims.
When most of us think of identity theft, fraud, or scams that affect millions of people, we probably envision a darkened basement where sits a hacker in a dark hoodie, his gaunt face washed out by the glow of a bank of computer screens. The reality is far less Hollywood-esque, and a new scam that is upending victims all over the US is so low-tech it almost makes you wonder why anyone would bother with hacking.
The Identity Theft Resource Center has been inundated with calls concerning possibly the shadiest, oversimplified scam in recent years: the “can you hear me?” scam. Using nothing more than a bait and switch tactic and a voice recording app, scammers call unsuspecting victims and pretend to have a bad connection or a faulty headset. The question, “Can you hear me?” is answered in the affirmative, and the scammer has all he needs.
From there, the victim is suddenly billed for outrageous amounts of money through either his cellular phone bill or a credit card that he has previously stored on file. The bill is for subscription services, bogus protection plans, fake warranties, or any other number of plausible scenarios. When the victim contacts the company to fight the charges, they have a voice recording of him saying, “Yes,” to the other question: “Do you agree to the following charges?”
Yes, they literally record you answering a seemingly innocuous question in order to store up your voice, agreeing to pay hefty fees. Any attempt to fight the matter is met with threats, as the company claims they will sue for breach of contract. This tactic is particularly successful with older or less tech-savvy victims who are unsure of their legal rights in the matter.
While highly skilled hackers are at work pulling off data breaches that steal account information for a billion Yahoo email addresses or allegedly rigging the recent US election, there’s a whole other faction of people who didn’t bother to learn any particular spy games-style skill, but rather tricked people into becoming victims. Not that anyone who commits a cybercrime should be “respected,” so to speak, but this lower art form level of attack is akin to the shady used car salesman who slaps a fresh coat of paint on a lemon and passes it off as new.
At this time, the only worthwhile effort in curtailing this scam is in raising awareness. Many news outlets and law enforcement agencies have already worked to spread the word, so it’s vital that individuals keep the news going, especially in terms of informing their elderly or otherwise vulnerable friends and family members.