There’s a new phone scam sweeping the United States and the worst part about it is that the thieves perpetrating it don’t even need any of your credit card information to start stealing your money, all they need is for you to call them back.
Maybe it’s happened to you already? The phone rings and, before you can get to it, it stops after just one ring. Out of curiosity, you take a look, see the number and decide to call back.
Con-artists rely on your curiosity and, when you call back, they quickly use it against you and charge your phone with unauthorized charges, usually long distance and very costly.
Called the “one ring scam”, the Better Business Bureau recently issued a fraud alert about it after being contacted by hundreds of people across the country. It works when scammers using auto dialers to randomly call phone numbers all over the US. After the first ring, the auto dialer disconnects and the thieves hope that you’ll pick up your phone, see the missed number and be curious enough to dial it and return the call.
Once you do, they’ve got you in their claws.
What happens next is that you’ll be connected to an extremely expensive international hotline, in most cases an adult entertainment service, that charges as much as $19.95 as soon as you’re connected. Normally there is a very high per-minute fee as well and, when your bill comes in at the end of the month, you’ll notice that you’ve been charged for “premium services”
Katherine Hutt, director of communications at the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said this “ring and run” scam is highly effective because it’s so simple. “No one would ever imagine they’d be charged as much as $20 to make a phone call,” Hutt said. There’s no warning message about the charges, and there’s nothing that indicates that the area code you’re dialing is for the Caribbean Islands.”
The area codes, including 264 Antigua, 284 for the British Virgin Islands, 809 for the Dominican Republic, 473 in Grenada, 876 for Jamaica and 649 for Turks and Caicos Islands, are all high-priced long-distance calls.
If you’ve got a mobile phone (and who doesn’t these days) you’re a prime target for these dirtbags because every smart phone and cell phone has a missed call log and caller ID. Since most of us have a plan that includes long-distance calls for free, we don’t think twice about making a call to what we consider a “safe” area code within the United States. Indeed, with most smart phones these days you don’t even need to dial a 1 first.
In order to defeat these scumbags, before your return any call where the number isn’t known to you, you should Google the area code and make sure there aren’t any scam reports that have been filed about it. Even better, just ignore the number. If you don’t recognize it, simply don’t call back.
If you’ve unfortunately become a victim of this scam already, you should contact your cell phone service provider right away and also keep an eye on your future phone bills to make sure that there aren’t any unauthorized charges on it. Filing a complaint with the FTC is also a good idea and, if you surf to their website, you’ll find a tip sheet entitled “How to Beat a Mobile Cramming Scam”.