Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine last week warned the public to be more vigilant about suspicious phone calls due to the latest phone scam.
Several people across the state have filed complaints with DeWine’s office since Friday.
The scam involves the caller asking “Can you hear me?” The caller tries to trick consumers into responding “Yes,” and using their response to place unauthorized charges on their phone or utility bills.
“Any time people receive a call that’s suspicious, we encourage them to be very careful and not to respond to the call,” said DeWine. “When in doubt, just hang up. If you need help or if you suspect a scam, contact the attorney general’s office.”
In reports to his office, consumers generally say the calls appeared to come from a local phone number, such as a number showing a 614 (Columbus) or 330 (Akron) area code. Some consumers said the callers claimed they had won a vacation or cruise or claimed to work for an extended warranty company.
“We received several reports on Friday, and we issued an alert on Monday,” Kate Hanson, a public information officer with DeWine’s office, told The Press last week. “Since then, we’ve received additional reports.”
So far, there have been no reports from Ohioans about unauthorized charges on a credit card, cell phone or utility bills, she added. “We’re trying to warn people about this now and to also just encourage people to check their statements. The idea is that when you say `Yes’ to the question `Can you hear me?’ it is a way for the caller to get authorization from the consumer, and then use that to place charges on the consumer’s account.”
One consumer who complained about the “Can you hear me?” scam said the caller had asked for debit and credit card information, she said.
“So we just warn people not to respond to potential scam callers in any way, and certainly don’t provide any personal information. Just hang up,” she said.
Tips suggested by the attorney general’s office to avoid potential phone scams include:
• Don’t respond to suspicious calls. Let the calls go to voicemail, or hang up if a call seems questionable in any way, especially if it’s an automated telemarketing call (or robocall), which is used commonly in scams;
• Don’t always trust caller ID. Even when calls appear to come from an Ohio phone number, the numbers could be spoofed or the calls could be made over the Internet, meaning the caller could be located somewhere else entirely;
• Check your phone bill and your credit card statements regularly. If you find suspicious charges, immediately report them to your provider.
Consumers who suspect a scam or who want to help resolve a consumer problem should contact the attorney general’s office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.