A phone scam that uses landlines has been making the rounds in BC. Here’s what you need to know about the “hang-up delay” scam so you can protect you and your loved ones from getting duped.

How the “hang-up delay” scam works

The scammer calls you on your landline to tell you that your money is at risk and pretends to be your bank, a police officer, or someone of authority. To convince you further, they ask you to call another credible institution (such as a bank or the police) to re-affirm the charges. The scammer makes you believe you are speaking to multiple people and making more than one call to verify the information, but in fact, you’ve only been connected to the scammer the whole time.

This scam only works on landlines and here’s why. What many people don’t know is that because the scammer initiated the call on your landline and they’ve secretly remained on the line, you (unknowingly) cannot end the call. This is because the person who initiates a call on a landline has to end the call for the other person to be able to dial out again (this is how landline systems work). This means that the initiator of a phone call (on a landline) has to hang up in order for the receiver of the phone call to be able to use their phone.

So without realizing the scammer has tied up your landline, you begin making calls to your bank or the police and end up speaking to the same scammer again, regardless of what numbers you dialed. The scammers may even use a fake dial tone or ringtone to make you believe your initiating a new call. The scammer may also change their voice or have someone else with them to make you believe that you’re speaking to multiple people from trustworthy institutions.

Then, posing as whoever you called, the scammer (who is still on the line) confirms that your money is at risk and convinces you to wire your money elsewhere to protect it from the phony “fraudulent charges” they told you about. You decide to take action to protect your money by wiring it to a secure location and it ends up in the scammer’s hands.

The people who run this scam can be incredibly convincing and by remaining on the line while you dial, it seems as though the issue is legitimate and has been verified by a credible source, like your bank or the police.

How to protect yourself (and your loved ones)

  • Be cautious of unsolicited calls on landlines claiming that your money may not be safe (ie. fraudulent charges on a credit card)
  • Never transfer money to strangers who make contact through unsolicited phone calls
  • If you’re even the slightest bit unsure, go to your bank in person to address any concerns
  • Spread the word to your loved ones so they know what to watch out for
  • If you encounter this scam, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

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About Consumer Protection BC

We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.