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Advertisement Hi, this is Emily - I'm having trouble with my headset and I'm about to rob you blind
by Dan Brawner Times Columnist · April 6th, 2017

"Hello. Oh, hi there. Oh, I am so sorry about that - I was having a little trouble with my headset. Anyway, my name is Emily. Can you hear me?"

If you say "yes," you may have just fallen for the latest phone scam.

Emily the Giggling Headset Girl has recently replaced Rachel From Card Services. Remember Rachel? She was that busy lady who called roughly, I don't know ... everybody, offering ridiculously low interest rates on their credit cards while what she was really doing was getting you to give her your credit card information. Rachel swindled Americans out of millions of dollars, but now that most of us are on to her, there is an even creepier new con.

It's called the "Can you hear me?" scam. It goes like this: A friendly recorded voice like Emily calls and starts to chat. But Emily is not your friend. It sounds harmless, but what she is trying to do is get you to say "yes" because your responses are being recorded. And if you find out later you are being charged for something you did not buy, they can play back your voice agreeing to the purchase. This simple trick has been minting money for scammers.

So why would you respond to an unsolicited phone message? Because you want to be nice. And when somebody, even a recording, asks you a question, you want to be polite enough to answer. That's how they get you.

Another trick is that the scammer pretends to be hearing impaired so that communication must be done through a special text service. They target businesses, ordering elaborate catering services or home improvements using a stolen credit card. After the scammer pays, they contact the card company to cancel the order and apply for a refund. The business owner may not know it's a scam for a week or two until the credit card company sends them a bill. Because most people are thrown off by the unfamiliar text service and because they want to help out a customer with a disability, they might not be on their guard. (I get four or five of these phony job offers every week.)

Authorities have trouble making arrests because the crooks often require payment in wire transfers like Western Union or reloadable money cards that are hard to trace. The best defense, they say, is to hang up on phone solicitors. If the call claims to be from the IRS and demands payment, it's a con - the IRS never calls you for money.

And don't believe your caller ID - scammers can spoof numbers and area codes.

Always carefully examine your credit card statements for any suspicious purchases. (My bank once called me, asking if I had recently bought a computer in India.)

And, no matter how friendly and agreeable you might be, when a phone solicitor asks you a seemingly innocent question, never, never say "yes."
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