This story was first published on September 7, 2012
Message circulating via SMS, social media and email warns you not to return missed calls from numbers starting with +375 or +371 because you will be charged between $15 and $30 for each returned call and your contact list and financial information will be instantly stolen from your phone.
There are elements of truth to the warning but the information it contains is nevertheless highly misleading and inaccurate. Reports indicate that many people have been caught by a scam in which they were charged international call fees for returning a missed call from +375 or +371 phone numbers. However, this fee was reportedly much less than $15. Moreover, the claim that simply returning the calls can result in personal data being instantly stolen from the user’s phone is nonsense. It is not possible for information to be stolen from a phone in the way described.
Subject: IMPORTANT – missed calls
People have been receiving calls from +375602605281, +37127913091 or any number starting with a +375, or +371 number.
One ring and they hang up, leaving a missed call message. . If you call back it’s one of those numbers that are charged $15-$30 & they can copy your contact list in 3 sec. If you have bank or credit card details on your phone, they can copy that too. +375 is from Belarus and Afghanistan.. 371 is code for Latvia…
Don’t answer or call back.
Please FORWARD AND SHARE this to your friends and family.
This message, which has circulated widely via SMS, email and social media in recent months, warns users not to call back missed calls from numbers starting with +375 and +371. According to the message, those who do call back such numbers will receive an immediate charge of $15 to $30. Moreover, claims the message, calling back one of the numbers will allow scammers to instantly copy the contact list from the caller’s phone and also steal any bank or credit card information stored on the phone.
While the warning contains an element of truth, it is otherwise highly misleading and inaccurate. Reports indicate that, during 2012, many people have indeed received suspect calls from numbers starting with +375 and +371. The calls typically ring once or twice and are then disconnected. 375 is the country code for Belarus. 371 is the country code for Latvia. Depending on their location, those who call the numbers back may be charged an international call fee, a portion of which may be paid to the scammers making the missed calls.
However, the claim that users who call the numbers back are automatically charged $15 to $30 appears to be unfounded. The figure of $15 may be a misinterpretation of reports that stated the calls were charged a fee of 15 Indian rupees (about 26 cents USD).
Moreover, the claim that simply calling the numbers will somehow magically allow criminals to steal contact lists and financial information from the calling phone is untrue. To steal such data, the criminals would have to hack into the phone in some way and this would obviously require much more than just calling a particular phone number.
Thus, it appears that initial speculation about the purpose of the phone calls and the motives of those responsible has fueled the spread of false and misleading information. And, at the time of writing, calling the two numbers listed in the warning results in automated “number not in service” messages. That said, people should be cautious of returning missed calls from phone numbers with those country codes unless they know the numbers or are expecting calls from those regions. Of course, while some calls with the country codes 375 or 371 may indeed be suspect as discussed above, the vast majority are likely to be perfectly normal calls from Belarus and Latvia.