Beware of “Can you hear me?” phone scam

Source: Article by Kathy Kristof of CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/beware-new-can-you-hear-me-scam/); accessed 31 January 2017.

The public are being warned about this latest phone scam, the “can you hear me” con. It is actually a variation on earlier scams aimed at getting the victim to say the word “yes” in a phone conversation. That affirmative response is recorded by the fraudster and used to authorize unwanted charges on a phone or utility bill or a stolen credit card. Once they have the recorded “yes,” they say that you have agreed to something.

So you may be asking how you can be charged if you don’t provide a payment method? The fraudster already has your phone number, and many phone providers pass through third-party charges. Additionally, the fraudster may already have some of your personal information such as a credit card number or utility bill (possibly as the result of a data breach). When you dispute the charge, they can say that they have your consent on a recorded call.

What can you do? Kathy’s article (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/beware-new-can-you-hear-me-scam/) suggests the following:

If you suspect you have already been victimized, check your credit card, phone and cable statements carefully for any unfamiliar charges. Call the billing company — whether your credit card company or your phone provider — and dispute anything that you didn’t authorize on purpose. If they say you have been recorded approving the charge and you have no recollection of that, ask for proof.

If you need help disputing an unauthorized credit card charge, contact the Federal Trade Commission. If the charge hit your phone bill, the Federal Communications Commission regulates phone bill “cramming.”

If you have not yet been victimized, the best way to avoid telemarketing calls from con artists is to sign up for a free blocking service or simply let calls from unfamiliar numbers go to your answering machine. Scammers rarely leave a message.

If you do answer a call from an unfamiliar number, be skeptical of strangers asking questions that would normally elicit a “yes” response. The question doesn’t have to be “can you hear me?” It could be “are you the lady of the house?”; “do you pay the household telephone bills?”; “are you the homeowner?”; or any number of similar yes/no questions. A reasonable response to any of these questions is: “Who are you, and why do you want to know?”

If the caller maintains they are with a government agency — Social Security, the IRS, the Department of Motor Vehicles or the court system — hang up immediately. Government officials communicate by mail, not phone (unless you initiate the call). Many con artists use the aegis of authority to convince you to keep talking. The longer you talk, the more likely you are to say something that will allow them to make you a victim.

Freedom Stores to provide over $2.5 million in refunds and penalties

CFPB_2tone_Horiz400The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Attorneys General of North Carolina and Virginia took action today to protect military servicemembers from illegal debt collection practices. The CFPB alleges that Freedom Stores, Inc., Freedom Acceptance Corporation, and Military Credit Services LLC used illegal tactics to collect debts, including filing illegal lawsuits, debiting consumers’ accounts without authorization, and contacting servicemembers’ commanding officers. The CFPB and the states filed a consent order in federal court to require the three companies and their owners and chief officers, John Melley and Leonard Melley, Jr. to provide over $2.5 million in consumer redress and to pay a $100,000 civil penalty.

Read the full article on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s web site at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/freedom-stores-to-provide-over-2-5-million-in-refunds-and-penalties/

AT&T mobile customers may be eligible for mobile cramming refunds

crammingAs part of a $105 million federal and state settlement, AT&T Mobility LLC will pay $80 million to the FTC to provide refunds to consumers.

According to the FTC and other agencies, AT&T unlawfully billed mobile phone users for unauthorized third-party charges for things like ringtone subscriptions and horoscopes. The FTC’s complaint alleges that AT&T kept at least 35 percent of those charges.

People who believe that AT&T charged them without authorization can visit ftc.gov/att to submit a refund claim.