We have all heard questions when picking up the phone such as ‘Are you there?’ and ‘Can you hear me?’. It may be that your caller just has bad service, but an unrecognized number asking these simple questions could be something more sinister.

This common scam has been around for a while and is often dubbed the ‘Can you hear me?’ scam, but it has a few different schemes running behind it that fraudsters continue to evolve to catch out their unsuspecting victims.

So, how does it work? The calls may come from an unknown number or it may appear to be a local number if the scammer is using a fraudulent technique called neighborhood spoofing. The first thing the caller will often say is ‘Can you hear me?’, ‘Are you there?’ or a similar question. Worryingly, they may even know your first or last name.

If you do not hang up, the phone call will often roll into a scam. Common ones are prize scams, where the caller claims you have won a cruise, gift cards or other surprises. They could also begin a ‘pig butchering’ scam, where the scammer tries to build a relationship with the intention of eventually asking for financial investments. If the caller did hang up right away, it is likely they are collecting data on which lines are likely to be picked up.

The scammer’s goal is to find out if the line is active because if it is they will continue to spam the line or they will sell the contact information to other companies that may be committing fraud. It is often human nature to answer quick and familiar questions, making it easy to fall for this scam. Victims may not even recognize the call is suspicious at all, which makes this scam dangerous.

It is best practice to never engage with unknown numbers and report phone numbers being used by scammers to your carrier. If you believe you are the victim of a scam, you can report it to your local police, state Attorney General’s office and the FTC.

Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls. Stay vigilant, share information about scams with others and be sure to check out our monthly Scam of the Month page updates.

John Haraburda is Director of Product Management at TNS with specific responsibility for TNS’ Communications Market solutions.

Call Guardian is a registered trademark of Transaction Network Services, Inc.