It’s Murphy’s Law: The landline will always, always ring when you’re clear across the house. You leap over furniture and make a grab for it, only to find the caller has already hung up—after just one ring. You thumb through the Caller ID, poised to give your mysterious caller a ring back when you note the strange area code. You hesitate. Should you, or shouldn’t you, make this call?
Let’s play out the end of this story in two different ways:
In Scenario 1, you flippantly hit the Call Back button and wait until someone on the other end of the line answers the phone. However, instead of a live person picking up, you get a recorded message that says something like, “Hello? Can you hear me? Hello?”
Or, you might hear a recording like this: “You’ve received a song from someone who loves you. After listening to this song you will find out who sent this song as a gift.”
Both recordings are designed to keep you on the phone for as long as possible. Unfortunately, you’ve just called a foreign country and you’ll be hit with a sky-high phone bill for your overseas call. Worse, the bad guy who conned you into making this call will walk away with most of that money.
In Scenario 2, you stand with the receiver in hand, deliberating. After a moment, you shrug and return the phone to its base. You walk away, mildly curious about who has just called you, and blissfully unaware that you’ve only narrowly missed being targeted by an ugly scam.
The FTC is warning of a recent surge in one-ring scams. As detailed above, scammers lure victims into placing overseas calls by targeting them with one-ring phone calls. When the victim returns the call, the scammer will employ any of a number of means to keep them on the phone for a while, thereby extending the length of the call. Sadly, the victim will be hit with sky-high international rates and other connection fees, much of which will end up in the scammer’s hands.
Here’s how to spot these scams and protect yourself if you’re targeted.
The primary clue that you’re being targeted by a one-ring scam is, quite obviously, a phone call that only rings once. If you get a call like this, by all means do not call back.
You can also be on the lookout for foreign area codes, particularly those of countries in the Caribbean, including the following: 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849 and 876.
Sometimes, scammers will spoof a local number, including those of recognized businesses, to get you to place a return call to foreign shores. They may even get your own name and number to appear on your Caller ID screen. Ignore these calls, as well. If you unknowingly return a scammer’s phone call, look for a plus sign to appear ahead of the area code. This is your clue that you’re placing an international call.
If you see a plus sign, hang up immediately.
If you’re targeted
If your phone rings once and then stops, follow these steps to protect yourself from this scam and help the authorities close in on the bad guys.
- Don’t call back.
- Ask your phone provider to block outgoing calls to international numbers. This way, you won’t be conned into thinking an overseas number is a domestic call. You’ll also be protected from accidental phone calls in which a simple mistake can end up costing you a pretty penny.
- File a complaint with the FTC at www.donotcall.gov and to the FCC at www.fcc.gov/complaints.
- Check your phone bill for suspicious charges. If you see a charge that has likely been incurred through one of these scams, speak to your phone carrier about resolving it.
Scammers are always looking for new ways to con people out of their money. Do your part in bringing an end to these nefarious schemes by arming yourself with the latest information about prevalent scams and reporting all scam attempts to the proper authorities. Together, we can put the bad guys out of business!