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Fraud/ Security Update: Voice Signatures emerging as Payment Fraud threat.

by | Jul 14, 2017 | eCommerce

Fraud/Security Update: Voice Signatures Emerging as Payment Fraud Threat


A certain mobile data company became famous thanks to a man asking, “Can you hear me now?” But if an unknown caller asks you a similar question, you could be dealing with something more sinister. A recent phone scam has shown how voice signatures can be used to facilitate payment fraud. Follow along to learn more about this type of payment fraud threat that can literally use your own words against you.


When Verbal Contracts Become Verbal Fraud

At its core, there is nothing inherently wrong with a voice signature. In fact, this form of verbal contract is used by many legitimate companies to conduct telephone transactions. By recording a customer’s approval using biometrics software, they can create a unique voiceprint, not unlike having a fingerprint. They can then use this voiceprint to verify the person’s identity in the future.

However, it can also be used for unscrupulous means. This is demonstrated by the recent “Can you hear me?” telemarketing scam in the U.S. and United Kingdom. The scam works like this:

  • The potential victim receives a phone call that appears to come from a local number
  • The fraudster gives their name and says what company they allegedly work for
  • Then they ask a seemingly simple question: “Can you hear me?”
  • The victim’s answer is recorded. If they said “yes”, the fraudster will edit their response into other audio to make it sound like they’ve agreed to purchase products or services. Scammers have even connected people’s voices to stolen credit cards.
  • If the victim argues, the scammer will play back their doctored recording and threaten legal action for non-payment.


Ways to Prevent Becoming a Payment Fraud Victim

Being a victim of this type of scam can be disastrous for a person’s finances and reputation. However, there are several ways to avoid giving fraudulent companies the information they want. Options for those contacted include:

  1. Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number. This blanket call screening is the simplest and most effective method. Generally speaking, if it’s someone worth talking to, they will leave a message.
  2. Hang up when asked, “Can you hear me?” or some variant. While you wouldn’t do this to a friend or family member, it’s acceptable to abruptly end calls from an unknown number if your suspicions are aroused.
  3. Avoid saying the word “yes” or any of its variants. If you’re uncertain whether a call is a scam, give an alternate response to the question. Possibilities include “Who did you say this was?” or “How can I help you?”
  4. If you think you’ve been had, contact your bank or credit card provider immediately. Like with any fraud scheme, blocking access to funds ensures no one else can illegitimately use them.

Voice signature fraud is a definite problem, and we don’t expect it to go away anytime soon. But by knowing what to expect, innocent people can protect themselves from being tricked into a costly verbal agreement. Check back often for more tips from eMerchant about how to stay safe against payment fraud threats.

*Please note that we only support merchants that are based in the United States or Canada at this time.