Q: I’ve been getting a lot of the same kinds of calls lately. The person on the other end will either ask for a confirmation that my name is “____” or ask me “Can you hear me clearly?” It’s very suspicious, so I hang up the phone almost immediately. Am I making the right call here? Or am I just being rude to somebody?
A: You made the right decision by hanging up the phone without saying anything. Those calls are definitely suspicious; and if your gut was telling you that something was off, then it probably was so. People will often record calls to others and try to get them to say “yes” over the phone. Scammers can assume your identity using that “yes” recording to make unauthorized purchases and decisions over the phone.
Is it legal? – It is illegal to record a conversation over the phone without the other’s knowledge/consent. Federal law permits recording telephone calls and in-person conversations with the consent of at least one of the parties. See 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(d). This is called a “one-party consent” law. Under a one-party consent law, you can record a phone call or conversation so long as you are a party to the conversation.
Be proactive – When these calls are scams, they are usually made by automated recordings. If you cannot tell whether a person calling you is real or not, there are many red flags that can tip you off. When someone calls you and asks if you can hear them, give a more neutral response. You could try responding with “what?” or “could you repeat that again?” More often than not, when it is an automated call, the automated recording will not repeat the question or ignore you. Thus, if they continue speaking, your suspicions are confirmed. Although, just because the caller is a human being, it doesn’t mean you can trust them.
Next steps – If you think you might have been compromised by this trick or one like it, I recommend you…
▪ Monitor your financial history for the next few weeks.
▪ Keep an eye out for suspicious purchases online.
▪ Start writing a list of your purchases (major and minor) and keep it up-to-date to make scanning your purchase history easier in the future. There are also phone apps that you can download that help you do this.
▪ If you find charges you don’t remember making, contact your bank/credit card union and place a hold on it ASAP.
Report it! – Report any and all suspicious charges in a timely manner, don’t wait on it. Time is always of the essence when personal information becomes compromised.
You can find more tips on avoiding scams from the Office of the Inspector General’s website (oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/scam-awareness). Report any and all scams you might encounter to the official BBB Scamtracker (bbb.org/scamtracker/us). You can also file a complaint at ftc.gov, the Attorney General’s Office and with your county’s district attorney, as well.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems toAction Line at the BetterBusiness Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or email@example.com.