Con artists behind the scheme, which is being called the "can you hear me?" scam, call potential victims and ask a simple question: Can you hear me? The goal is to get the person on the other end of the line to say the word "yes." Police say scammers record the affirmative response in an effort to use the recording to authorize fraudulent and unwanted charges.
Although criminals need more than a recorded "yes" to make purchases, they may already have access to credit card numbers and sensitive, identifying information that can be used to make charges. They can then use the recorded "yes" response in attempt to prove they gained the victim's permission to make the charge.
Though it may be tempting to answer calls from an unknown number — what if it's someone you know who needs to reach you in a pinch? — the surest way to protect the user is to let these types of calls go to voicemail. Anyone who needs to reach the will call back or leave a voicemail.
If the user decides to answer, they should always verify the caller and never give out personal information. (Though scammers may claim to be from a credit card company or a government agency, legitimate requests from these organizations will never be made over the phone.) Users can also sign up for a service like Nomorobo, which analyzes their incoming calls and blocks any numbers with a high number of registered complaints.
If the victim suspect they may be victim of a scam like this one, they should check all bills — credit cards and utilities — thoroughly, and dispute any unrecognized charges immediately. If they discover unusual activity, they should also place a fraud alert on their credit file by contacting one of the credit reporting agencies.