Scammers are always coming up with ways to get your money — and with the latest technology, they are more creative than ever. An assistant New York state attorney general and a bank president say one of the latest scams puts your finances at risk if you respond with a single word.
“Can You Hear Me” is one of the latest phone scams hitting the region. You answer the phone and the caller asks if you can hear them. If you say yes or make any affirmative response, your money could be compromised. That’s because the scammers record the call and your affirmative answer can then be used to authorize unwanted charges. If you challenge, your voice is supposed proof that you approved those charges. “If you see a charge and then you call about it and they say ‘Oh but you authorized it. We have you recorded.’ But those charges can be challenged and should be.”
NYS Assistant Attorney General Glen Michaels is in charge of the Plattsburgh regional office, which services Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. He notes while the latest veers from the norm, there tend to be typical warning signs of a scam. “Phishing scams are designed for you to give away information that can be used to tap into your financial resources. In other cases scammers want you to directly authorize payment immediately. They want to create a sense that there’s a dire problem and you need to deal with it immediately. And then they will ask you to make a payment using a Western Union or other money payment card so that it can’t be traced. A problem, urgency, and secrecy: that’s a red flag that this is almost certainly a scam.”
Champlain National Bank President Steven Cacchio says attempts to obtain bank account information and PINs is another red flag. “Banks are not going to ask for that information. We already have that information. So if they’re asking for that and they seem like something’s wrong and you have to respond quickly don’t do that. If you have any questions call the bank. Call the business that supposedly is reaching out to you and verify.”
While it’s recommended that you don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers, scammers are using spoof numbers that imitate local phone exchanges. Michaels recommends that any legitimate transactions over the phone only be instigated by you. “You do not know who’s on the other end of the line if you have not made the call. So if you have any doubt as to the legitimacy of the person on the other end of the line say thank you for alerting me, hang up. And then if they’ve said they’re from the IRS you can call the IRS. Or you can call Champlain Bank or your credit card issuer or the DMV and ask is there a problem? And 99.9 percent of the time they will say glad you called us. That was some sort of scam.”
This is also the time of year when a spike in IRS scams occurs, according to Michaels. “The IRS does not call to ask you for money. They may write you but they are not going to call and demand money. It’s almost always a scam. And once again if you get a phone call from someone who says they’re the IRS, hang up. Don’t give them your information.”
If you don’t recognize a number let it go to voicemail, because scammers rarely leave messages. The New York State Attorney General’s office number to report a scam is 800-771-7755.