Scamwatch: "Can you hear me?"

Sneaky new scam could hinge on just one word: 'yes'

Scamwatch:

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we explain why US authorities are warning people not to answer calls from unknown people who ask: "Can you hear me?"

How does it work?

Authorities in the US have warned the public to avoid answering if they receive a phone call from an unknown number that when picked up is someone asking: "Can you hear me?"

The authorities have issued the warning due to fears the calls are from fraudsters trying to trick people into saying "yes" so they can record this and use it to authorise fraudulent charges to the victim's phone or credit card bill.

If they are correct, it is the first scam to target automated phone services with which users are required to answer "yes" or "no" to questions in order to access their accounts.

How can I avoid being caught out?

There have so far been no reports of calls of this kind being made to UK consumers. However, scams spread quickly - especially if they are seen to be working.

So it is sensible to be on your guard in case fraudsters operating in the UK start using the same tactics.

Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America, is urging the public to simply put the phone down to unsolicited callers who pose that question.

"I know that people think it's impolite to hang up, but it's a good strategy," she said.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

It is a good idea to contact your bank, phone company or card provider as soon as possible if you suspect you may have compromised your account.

You can also report scams of any kind to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.