'Can you hear me' scam plagues Mid-South

Conrad Brombach (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Conrad Brombach (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - "Can you hear me OK?"

Don't answer that question if it comes in an unsolicited phone call.

79-year-old Conrad Brombach of Midtown Memphis got the call. As soon as he answered, a male voice said, "Hi, this is Josh. Can you hear me OK?"

"I answered 'Yes' because I know a few Joshes," Brombach said. "Then I realized it was a recording, so I hung up."

He should have never answered in the first place.

Randy Hutchinson, president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South, said something happens when you answer "Yes" to this call.

"They're recording your response," Hutchinson said. "People may ultimately get unauthorized charges on some sort of account."

It's what we in consumer protection circles call cramming. A third party records your affirmative "Yes" response and uses it as consent for unauthorized charges on an account, typically your smart phone or landline bill. If you attempt to dispute the charges, "The company will play back a recording splicing your 'Yes' in response to a question they may never have ever really asked you," revealed Hutchinson.

"Wow...different world," Brombach reacted. "Obviously, that 'Yes' is done for some devious purpose. They're out to get people."

So far, there is no evidence anyone has compromised Brombach's accounts. While he's monitoring them, we helped him report the scam on the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker, where the bureau can plot it on the tracker's Memphis map and alert the community about the call.

"We'll be able to help the public know what kind of scams are happening in their area, and they'll also know that they're not alone," Hutchinson said. "They're not the only ones who have gotten these phone calls."

A report released by the Council of Better Business Bureaus revealed more than half of the reports to the Scam Tracker nationwide have been about this scam.

"Just hang up," Hutchinson implored.

You should never answer any calls you do not recognize on your caller ID, even if the area code is familiar or if it is your number appearing on caller ID. Let your voice mail screen the calls.

Even if you do not fall for the scam, you confirm to the robo-dialer that your number is a real number. The dialer's programmer will sell your number to other robo-dialers. Your call volume will increase. Simply stop answering these calls. The less you answer, the more they will taper off and disappear. The dialers will not continue to harass a number that does not generate a human engagement.

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