Just hang up!

I’ve noticed a recent uptick in the number of messages left on our digital answering machine. We’ve gotten our share of solicitation scams from callers pretending to be the IRS but this surge seemed different and it's worth repeating the warnings by the national media for the readers of WBVO.

According to Wikipedia, a “phone call that uses a computerized autodialer to deliver a prerecorded message” is called a robocall. One such legitimate robocall is The Illuminating Company asking customers to keep their dogs on leash for the safety of their meter readers. But there are outright shady robocallers trying to scam you.

Like a cat-and-mouse game, nefarious entities can hide their identities behind a legitimate service that enable customers to present themselves as “Private Caller” on your caller ID. If you were home and the caller ID shows exactly that, and you know your brother uses such service, do you pick it up?

Dealing with an answering machine to identify the important calls from scam attempts is a little easier. It is somewhat reassuring when you realize that you dodged a possible scammer as the message left is five seconds of silence; a tell-tale sign of a robocall as they will hang up and call the next number if not answered by a live person who usually answers “Hello?”

Many of you may have built good habits to not pick up calls when you don’t recognize the caller ID shown. You may also have invested in a device that acts to block unregistered numbers from ringing through. Without such devices and good habits, it may be challenging to decide whether to pick up a call or not.

Are you familiar with the pitchman for a Verizon, now working for Sprint, whose claim to fame was “Can you hear me now?” In the latest scam, a robocaller asks, “Can you hear me?” which is already a very common phrase during a typical telephone conversation. The aim is to get you to say "yes," which the scammer records to fake that you agreed to their service.

Better Business Bureau of Cleveland’s website says it has been around for a while to trick businesses into buying unintended office supplies as they answer “yes” to the question. Businesses have been warned of this scam in the past, but for many consumers this is new.

Just as it may be hard to resist opening an unsolicited email with a catchy subject line, for some it may be difficult not to pick up a call. It may be best to let unrecognized callers go into your answering machine first as they should leave you a message if important.

If you have to pick up and if they happen to open the conversation with “Can you hear me?” or something similar, just hang up! Don’t worry about being scolded by Miss Manners for your telephone etiquette as they will hang up on you as soon as they get a “yes” from you if they were scammers!

Tak Sato

Technology and Organization Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As co-founder of Center for Aging in the Digital World, a nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, and co-founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 9, Issue 3, Posted 9:48 AM, 02.07.2017