Sometimes you can be a bit too careful on the phone, and what sounds like a scam isn't one.

Sometimes you can be a bit too careful on the phone, and what sounds like a scam isn't one.

Scam alert (or maybe not)

Is it possible to be too careful when it comes to phone scams? The answer is a definite yes.

Long before the brave new online world we find ourselves in, there were scam artists intent on separating trusting folk from their hard-earned money; but over the last few years scammers have embraced technology, developing scheme after scheme to fleece the unwary. I’ve reported on several of these over the last year or so, and it’s made me much more aware of how careful you need to be out there.

I’ve received CRA scam phone calls and Microsoft computer scam phone calls, and just hang up as soon as the spiel starts. I recently wrote about the “Can you hear me?” scam, where someone phones you and asks “Can you hear me?” When you reply “Yes,” your response is recorded; then, later, the scammers tell you you have committed to purchasing something, using your recorded “Yes” as “proof”.

One day last week the phone rang: unavailable number. I tend to answer these, as sometimes they’re legitimate, but am always ready to disconnect if it’s a scam. There was no one on the line, so I hung up. Seconds later another unavailable number rang through, and I picked up the phone.

“Hello?” said a voice at the other end. “Can you hear me? Can you hear me?”

Aha, I thought, a scam. Well, they’ve picked the wrong person, and hung up. Seconds later, another unavailable call, with the same “Can you hear me?” request. This was too much. I said a rather rude thing into the phone (I hope my parents aren’t reading this), and hung up. The calls stopped. That’s shown them!

An hour later the phone rang again. There was a name, and a number with a 603 area code this time, neither of which I recognized. I answered, and was immediately greeted with “Hello! Can you hear me? Can you hear me?”

I am sorry to say that I once more said something rather rude into the phone, and hung up. A minute later the phone rang again: same name, same number. I answered, ready to really let rip, only to be greeted by “Barbara! Barbara? Don’t hang up; it’s me, Bruce!”

It turned out that it was someone who has purchased books from us in the past, and who I had indeed spoken with, albeit some time ago. He was calling from New Hampshire (area code 603) to ask how long it would take for an order to get to him, and explained that he’d already phoned four times that morning, hoping to get through. “I wondered what was going on when you answered the way you did.”

“Mortified” is the word that best describes my state, and I expect my face was red as a beet (only the cats were here to see me, and they’re staying quiet). I apologized, profusely and repeatedly, and explained the “Can you hear me scam?” to Bruce, who clearly had never heard of it. We chatted for a minute or so, catching up since the last time we had spoken. Eventually Bruce said “Well, hope to talk again soon. And I promise: next time I call, I won’t lead off with ‘Can you hear me?’”

The moral of the story—if, indeed, it has one—is threefold. First, be on your guard against telephone scammers, as they are out there. Second, don’t be too much on your guard. And third, watch your language; your parents might come to hear of it.

Ashcroft Cache Creek Journal