Worries about the "Say Yes" scam are real but evidence of incidents is lacking: Internet Scambusters #1,091
People usually say "Yes" to questions when they mean it. But not always. Maybe they haven't thought things through yet, or they just want to move the conversation along.
Consumer and law enforcement organizations have warned that if a caller is a scammer and asks questions to which you answer "Yes," your reply may be recorded and used for fraud.
It's absolutely right to be on the alert for this trick but, so far, we can't find any victims, as we report in this week's issue.
Let's get started…
Is the "Say Yes" Scam Real or Just a Danger?
You might have heard of the "Say Yes" scam. It's supposedly been around for the past few years. But is it real?
Law enforcement and consumer organizations say this is how it works: You get a phone call where the caller asks a series of questions to which the answer is "Yes."
Things like, "Is this (your name)," "Can you hear me?," "Is this your correct address?," "Are you concerned about identity theft and fraud?" and so on.
According to these organizations, scammers could be potentially recording your voice and splicing it into another conversation. The end result, supposedly, is that this can then be used as evidence that you agreed to something, such as taking out a new credit card, making a charitable donation, or buying a subscription.
Another idea is that by asking you a series of questions to which the answer is "Yes" you become so accustomed to using the word and find it difficult to say "No" when the caller pounces on you with some sort of proposal.
It has been said that this manipulation tactic is a favorite one used by car and other product salespeople. That may be true. Certainly, it's human nature to be polite and avoid conflict. But we just don't know.
But here's the thing, while the alerts are well-intended, we have been unable to find any evidence that anyone has ever been snared by this trick.
We used artificial intelligence (AI) to search the entire web, using a popular and well-respected AI app called Claude that, unlike some others (for example, ChatGPT), uses up to date info for its answers.
AI being in the early stages and subject to errors, we can't absolutely rely on what Claude told us, but this is what it said:
"While the 'Yes' scam is theoretically possible, there are currently no confirmed cases of it actively deceiving victims. The scam appears to be discussed more as a hypothetical cautionary tale in fraud prevention circles than an actual criminal scheme in operation."
The fake news checking site Snopes appears to agree by describing reports of a "Can you hear me?" scam call as "unproven."
But that doesn't mean you should ignore the alerts. As Claude says:
"It still illustrates the potential for scammers to exploit conversational psychology and serves as a useful reminder to be vigilant against any manipulation attempts. By being aware of how such a scam could work, people can identify red flags if a caller does attempt to trap them into unwanted agreements using this technique."
How to Respond to Calls
Picking up on that point, here are some tips on how to deal with malicious calls of this type:
- Be wary about picking up unsolicited calls from numbers or names that you don't recognize.
- If you do answer, ask the caller to identify themselves and the purpose of the call. Don't be taken in by claims that the caller is from a government agency or a business.
- If they ask a question to which the answer is "Yes," don't say so, but ask them another question instead. For example, "How can I help you?"
- At this point, if you're unhappy, hang up. Don't allow yourself to be pressured and don't provide any personal information.
- If you feel you might have been compromised in any way by this or any other type of call, start paying closer than ever attention to your credit record and card statements.
Furthermore, although we're not legal experts and don't provide legal advice, it seems highly unlikely that any such scam recording would alone be regarded as evidence in court. More likely, a scammer might try to play it back to a victim and use it as a threat.
Final words from Claude:
"Staying vigilant and protecting personal information are the best defenses against this scam designed to take advantage of habituated agreeableness. Being aware of how the 'Yes' technique works means you can spot red flags before falling victim."
This Week's Alerts
Small biz targets: Cyberattacks on small firms have leapt by 28% since last year, says the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). Phishing schemes and scams were the biggest risers in terms of root causes. Download the full ITRC Business Impact Report (registration required).
Older folk pay: Americans over the age of 60 may have paid out $48 billion to scammers last year, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says in a new report to Congress. Officially, reported fraud was $1.6 billion but, says the Commission, the vast majority of frauds are not reported. Hence that gigantic number.
DNA profiles theft: Info relating to as many as seven million customers of genomics firm 23andMe has been put up for sale in online criminal forums "including information about users' DNA Relatives profiles" following a cyberattack. Details were sketchy at the time of writing, but the company says it will contact anyone whose details are found to have been compromised. The company also advises customers to change passwords.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!