The next time you get a call from an unknown number, it’s better to be skeptical right away. Time and again, scammers use a sneaky trick that has migrated from the USA to Europe and, especially in recent times, has also been increasingly reported in Germany.
The scam is almost impossible to see through
The scam involves a scammer trying to coerce you into saying the word “YES” during a conversation by asking questions like “Can you hear me?” or “Do you own the house?” – reports the NRW Consumer Advisory Center. These and other parts of the conversation are later cut short in such a way as to give the impression that the caller has placed an expensive order over the phone.
An unpleasant surprise often arrives in the mailbox a few days later: an expensive bill. People who refuse to pay quickly succumb to pressure from fraudsters – who insist on a fake telephone recording with a clear “yes” to the alleged purchase agreement and even threaten with a negative entry in Schufa or a debt collection agency. One reader of the online portal “Heise” was even called back immediately after he refused to answer “yes” and hung up. He was threatened with a fine of 125 euros for interrupting the phone call.
How should one behave during a phone call?
In any case, you should be skeptical of unknown callers and avoid answering “yes” even to supposedly harmless questions. If the conversation seems strange to you, you can simply hang up. If you are nevertheless a victim of such a scam: Don’t panic!
The Consumer Advice Centre advises the following: to the question “Can you hear me?” do not answer “Yes”, but “I hear you”.
Contracts in Germany can also be concluded over the phone
Lawyer Christian Solmecke advises: “Contracts can usually also be concluded over the telephone. In this case, however, the alleged seller must prove that a contract has been concluded. To do so, he must make a concrete offer over the telephone. However, this is not the case here. In this context you should also not be put off by a pre-recorded telephone conversation.
According to Solmecke, such a recording can only be used if the person called has given his prior consent. Therefore, do not succumb to pressure and under no circumstances should you pay the amount stated on the bill. If in doubt, contact a consumer advice center, a lawyer or the police – as in this case the fraudster can also be charged with a crime.
Is the contract effective without a signature?
Even if it sounds a little strange, a contract made over the phone is legally valid even without subsequent written confirmation. However, in order to terminate such a contract, it must be put back in writing. This is exactly what consumer protection agencies have been complaining about for years. They demand that contracts concluded over the telephone should not be valid until signed. Consumers would then have time to think things through and could not be surprised during the call. Unfortunately, German politicians have not yet succeeded in agreeing on such a universally applicable regulation.