Circulating messages warn users about a ‘one ring’ phone scam designed to trick people into returning a missed call and thereby incurring per minute charges on top of hefty international call fees.
The warnings are legitimate. The FTC, BBB and other legitimate sources in the United States have issued warnings about the scam. The scammers use auto-dialers to call cell phones and hang up after one ring in the hope that people will call back. If you receive one of these one ring calls do not call back. Refer to the detailed analysis below for more information about this scam.
SCAM ALERT! Something known as the “one-ring phone scam” is sweeping the country.
Here’s how it works: Scammers program their computers to blast out thousands of calls to random cell phone numbers. Those calls ring once and then hang up.
Messages currently circulating via social media warn users about a phone scam that can trick people into incurring large phone bills via international phone charges and per-minute fees for “premium” phone services. The warnings explain that scammers are making phone calls and then hanging up after only one ring in the hope that users will return the missed call and be charged accordingly.
The claims in the warnings are valid. Alerts about the scam have been issued by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as well as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Attorney General’s Office in several US states.
The scammers use auto-dialling software to call random cell phone numbers. The diallers are configured to hang up after just one ring. The scammers hope that recipients will call the number back either out of simple curiosity or because they mistakenly believe that the call was cut off.
If users do take the bait and call back, they will be inadvertently calling an international number. And, they may not realize that they are actually calling a “premium” phones service that incurs hefty per minute fees. Thus, the users may rack up a sizable phone bill, first for the international call connection and then for the per-minute premium service. The exact costs incurred may vary depending on the victim’s phone provider and the per-minute cost of the premium call. However, some reports suggest that the user could be charged up to $19.95 for the international call and as much as $9 per minute for the premium service call.
The goal of the scammers is to keep users on the line for as long as possible. The longer the call, the more money the scammers make. The calls originate from outside the United States but have area codes that look like they are local. The bogus calls come from area codes that include the following:
268, 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849 and 876.
The majority of the scam calls originate from Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Grenada, and the British Virgin Islands.
If you receive one of these one ring calls, do not call back. The FTC advises that people tempted to call back would be wise to check the number via an online directory. The directory should tell them where the call came from.
Note that this legitimate warning should not be confused with a much earlier message that provided greatly exaggerated and misleading information about 809 area phone scams.