“Can you hear me” phone scam is fake

FactCheck August 6, 2019

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from July 26, 2019 claiming Australians were being defrauded by answering a scam phone caller who repeatedly asks “can you hear me”. Answering “yes” allowed the scammer to record the victim’s voice use it to then “authorise payments or chargers in the victim’s name”.

This Facebook post from July 26, 2019 claims Australians are falling victims to a phone scam by simply saying ‘yes’.

The information about the alleged scam was contained in an image of a print newspaper story. The story references Sunshine Coast Police in south east Queensland warning anyone who received a “can you hear me” call had “legitimate and serious reasons to be concerned”. “Police say if you get a ‘can you hear me?’ call hang up and don’t respond. If you do respond with a ‘yes’ alert your financial institution, monitor your accounts closely and contact ID Care”, Australia’s national identity and cyber support service. 

The Facebook post is captioned “be aware”.

The same post had been shared by a number of other Facebook users and has collectively amassed over 2,500 shares.

The Analysis

AAP FactCheck could not find a source for the original print story pictured in the Facebook post, but found a similar story in the Queensland newspaper the Sunshine Coast Daily on page five of the April 28, 2017 edition.

According to another April 29, 2017 Queensland media report the “can you hear me” scam had been spread in America and the United Kingdom.

The alleged scam spread to the UK and USA and featured in media reports, including this screen shot from a Florida TV news station WPTV story.

An earlier February 2017 UK media report, stated the same “can you hear me” scam was being used to foist unsolicited goods on unsuspecting customers. If the customer refused to pay for the goods, they were played their recorded “yes” answers and threatened with legal action. 

A January 2017 American media report also cautioned people against being caught by the scam and incurring rogue charges on phone and utility bills and credit cards. Another 2017 report by Florida TV news station WPTV included a re-enactment warning of the “four little words that could cost you big”.

AAP FactCheck spoke to Queensland Police, who issued a warning about the scam on its website in April 2017. Queensland Police told AAP FactCheck the scam could only work if the scam caller already had personal details of the victim such as their name, date of birth, address, post code and driver’s licence number. 

Queensland Police also said it advised anyone who suspected they had fallen victim to the scam to contact ID Care, as it was better placed to assess the risks of any “can you hear me” phone call.

ID Care told AAP FactCheck it had received no reports from any individuals who had responded yes to this scam and had then experienced identity fraud or related misuse of accounts. Managing director Professor David Lacey said ID Care had checked with several financial institutions and they had no reports either.

“IDCARE does not believe that these calls relate to scam activity. IDCARE also does not believe that an individual’s bank account is at risk,” Prof Lacey told AAP FactCheck.

Andy White, CEO of AusPayNet, an Australian payments industry body that protects individuals and business using payment networks, told AAP FactCheck the scam was fake. 

“Financial institutions use a variety of different security methods to protect customer accounts; payments cannot be authorised with only the word ‘yes’,” Mr White said. “Nonetheless, individuals should always be alert to potential scams, including those by phone … and if you are suspicious of a caller, it is important to hang up immediately.”

Western Australia ScamNet, a scam profiling website run by the WA government, debunked the scam in 2017, stating it was being used as a ploy to sell call blockers, apps or devices that help screen unwanted calls. WA ScamNet stated the scam “doesn’t make sense and we do not consider ‘can you hear me? scam’ warnings to be genuine.”

Fact checking organisation Snopes also investigated the scam in January 2017, finding it was more likely a “suggestion of a hypothetical crime scheme than a real one that is actually robbing victims of money”. Snopes recorded a verdict of “unproven” but noted no relevant authorities confirmed any documented cases of anyone falling victim to this scam.

The Verdict 

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. Scammers are unable to access a person’s finances by just using a recorded “yes” response.

False – The Facebook post is false.

 First published August 6, 2019 15:13 AEST

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