There are new phone scams. There are old phone scams. There are even old phone scams that become new again. That seems to be the case with the “yes” scam.
Here’s how it works: a call comes in and the caller asks a question such as “Can you hear me?” or “Am I speaking to (insert name here)?” Instinctively the recipient says “yes.”
Why does the caller want the recipient to say yes? According to the Better Business Bureau, the caller “may be a robocall recording your conversation, and that ‘yes’ answer you gave can later be edited to make it sound like you authorized a major purchase.”
The BBB says this scam has long been used to trick businesses into purchasing things like office supplies and directory ads that they never actually ordered, but now it’s targeting individual consumers. The BBB calls it “an old scam with a new twist.”
In August, the BBB issued a scam alert about what it calls the “Can you hear me?” scam. The alert states that there has been an increase in reports of the scam to the BBB Scam Tracker. Consumers filing reports said the calls were about vacation packages, cruises, warranties, and even Medicare cards.
What Hiya users are reporting
Hiya’s data also shows evidence of the “yes” scam making the rounds. Consumers using Hiya Protect via their carrier, device manufacturer, or the Hiya mobile app, have the ability to report the types of scam calls they receive. This information, along with many other data points, helps Hiya identify these calls so carriers can either block future calls or flag them as “potential fraud.”
Since April there has been a steady increase in Hiya users reporting calls that ask “Can you hear me?”
Here is what Hiya users are reporting about the “yes” scam:
“Call comes in and female voice says hello and then asks "Can you hear me?" After saying yes I can hear you, it jumps to auto message from Chase bank about credit card rates and how they are monitoring you and you’re qualified for a new card at 6%. Sure you are. Prime is higher than that.”
“Asked me if I owed any money to the IRS. Suspicious when their very first question was “Can you hear me?” Probably fraud trying to record my voice saying yes to something.
“I had a call yesterday afternoon that tried to get me to say yes with 3 different questions. The first question after I said hello was "Is this Debbie?" I asked who she was and she gave a name but not the name of the business and then immediately asked "Can you hear me?" so I hung up and called back. That time a man answered and asked "Is this Debbie?" I asked "Who is this?" and he said "I'm with the benefits department. Did you receive your benefits check?" I hung up.”
“Upon answering the call I was asked 'Can you hear me?’ As soon as I answered yes, the other party ended the call.”
The “yes” scam is also showing up in the Hiya honeypot, a collection of more than 100,000 Hiya-owned phone numbers used to record the exact wording of incoming scam calls. Here are some examples of “Can you hear me?” robocalls from the honeypot:
“Hello. Hi, this is Mary with Dream Trips calling on a recorded line. Can you hear me?”
“Hello. Hi, this is Marisa calling from the SBA lending and line of credit program. Can you hear me?”
“Hello, I'm calling in regards to the Fresh Start Program. Have you heard about this program by any chance?”
Check for unauthorized charges
The consequences of this scam might not be immediately apparent. According to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, consumers who answer “yes” during one of these calls should keep an eye on their credit card statements and phone bills to look for any unauthorized charges. The AG office has this notice posted on its website:
Scam artists may be able to use a recorded “yes” to claim that the person authorized charges to his or her credit card or account. How can scammers access your account? Some companies share their customers’ information with third‑party companies or allow third parties to charge customers’ accounts in exchange for payment.
The Minnesota AG reminds consumers that there are laws that protect consumers and enable them to dispute unauthorized charges to their credit cards and bank accounts, but the laws generally impose time limits.
Even if a “yes” call doesn’t result in a financial loss, the Minnesota attorney general mentions one other consequence of the call: “By responding yes, people notify robocallers that their number is an active telephone number that can be sold to other telemarketers for a higher price. This then leads to more unwanted calls.”
How to protect your subscribers from the “yes” scam
The best way to fight back against unwanted calls is with a solution that adapts to scammers’ ever-changing tactics.
For carriers, there’s Hiya Protect. It’s a complete call protection solution that enables mobile network carriers to protect their subscribers by blocking fraud calls and labeling spam calls.
Hiya Protect uses a proprietary multi-layer approach that analyzes the phone number, call characteristics, the call recipient, and even the calling enterprise’s history across all numbers used.
For enterprises, there’s Hiya Connect. Hiya Connect’s branded caller ID enables businesses to display their company name, logo and reason for the call on the recipient’s mobile phone, so customers can feel safe when they answer the phone.
For individuals, there’s the Hiya mobile app. It’s a great solution for individuals who use a phone carrier that doesn’t offer spam protection at the network level.