JAMESTOWN, N.D.-"Can you hear me?" was all an automated voice at the other end of a phone call would say.
That simple question, answered by hundreds of people in North Dakota and Minnesota, was named the top-reported scam in 2017 by the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota reported that 1,200 scam reports were received through the bureau's BBB Scam Tracker, a computer program that lets consumers and business owners report scam attempts.
Dan Hendrickson, BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota communications manager, said the most reported scam was the "Can you hear me?" call. He said the goal of this call was not entirely clear, but people would receive a call and an automated voice would say "Can you hear me?". He said it was believed the goal was to get people to say "yes," possibly to serve as proof the person who said "yes" had authorized a charge or agreed to some kind of offer.
"These calls filtered out as the year progressed," Hendrickson said. "Should they flare up again, as scams often do, we advise people to simply hand up the phone."
Hendrickson said of the 1,200 scam reports received by the bureau in 2017, 50 of them were reported in North Dakota.
"The bulk of the reports come from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota," he said. "There are more people there, so that makes sense."
According to information on the Scam Tracker program, two scam reports were made to the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota from the Jamestown area in 2017. One was from June and was a bogus credit card offer. The other was from March 10 and was the "Can you hear me?" phone call scam.
Online purchases were the second-most reported scam of 2017. Hendrickson said many of these reports had to do with purchases made on less-than-reputable websites or products received being different from what was advertised.
Hendrickson said a phone scam gaining momentum is the neighbor scam. He said people receive a call and see a local prefix on the caller ID.
"You might think it is someone you know or someone locally," he said.
People answer the phone and Hendrickson said the call was an attempt to make sure the phone number is to an active phone.
"You can look forward to more suspect calls," he said.
In December Jamestown Regional Medical Center officials said phone scammers were calling people and the name "Jamestown Hospital" would pop up on the phone's caller ID. The scammers said the person answering the phone had won a prize or qualified for a vacation.
Hendrickson said scammers are able to change the information on a phone's caller ID.
"These guys are constantly shifting tactics and when they find something that works, they hit it hard," he said.