One Ring Phone Scam Cashes in on Curiosity

Mystery one ring phone call is a premium charge scam: Internet Scambusters #607

Curiosity can get the better of you if your phone rings once and then stops.

You may be tempted to call back, but if you do you could end up paying heavily for what turns out to be an international premium line call.

We tell you how to avoid this scam in this week’s issue — and we’ll also tell you how to check your PC for a widespread virus infestation.

Before we begin, you may want to spend a moment looking at this week’s most popular articles from our other sites:

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Those Terrifying Shark Myths and the Truth Behind Them, Part I: Come on in and get the real skinny on those shark myths that people have been insisting are true!

Now, here we go…


One Ring Phone Scam Cashes in on Curiosity


It goes by several different names — the missed calls scam, the one ring scam, the ring and run scam, and the dial-and-disconnect scam — but the aim is always the same: to steal 20 or more dollars from you.

Your cell phone rings once then stops and you’re left with a sense of curiosity that will only be satisfied by finding out who phoned you by calling them back.

That’s what the crooks know and that’s why they use this trick.

You won’t recognize the number or even the area code, which is often something like 268, which is used for the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Other Caribbean codes you might see include 242, 246, 264, 284, 345, 441, 473, 649, 664, 758, 767, 784, 809, 829, 849, 868, 876 and 869.

You may have family or friends living in or visiting the Caribbean region and may think it’s a genuine call. But, almost certainly, that one ring is a clue to the fact that it’s a scam.

Alternatively, the caller may wait for you to answer and then respond with a muffled voice you can’t understand or other distressing sounds that leave you puzzled and worried.

And, in a third variation, if you use voicemail, the scammer may leave a message, claiming to be from the police or, say, a hospital, claiming there’s been an emergency and asking you to call back.

Whichever route they use, if your curiosity does get the better of you so that you decide to call back, you’ll be making an international premium line call with a basic fee of around $20, plus a billing charge of between $9 and $20 a minute.

And it may take a couple of minutes or more before you realize something’s not right, and hang up.

In the meantime, you’ll be greeted with a “please hold” message followed by a music recording or perhaps an advertisement.

If you don’t know about this trick, you won’t know just how costly that call back was until your phone bill arrives.

Phone and law enforcement officials say victims’ numbers are dialed randomly by computers operated by scammers who work from various parts of the Caribbean.

7 Key Actions

So, what can you do to minimize the risk from this scam? Here are 7 key actions:

  1. If the phone only rings once and you don’t recognize the number, don’t call back.

  2. Be aware of and wary about the area code numbers we listed above. They look like they’re from the US but they’re not.

    Some smartphones and carriers actually provide the location of the number on-screen.

  3. Set up and use voicemail on your cell phone service. If a call is genuine, a serious caller will usually leave a message.

    However, as we indicated above, beware of scammers leaving phony alert messages asking you to call back.

    You may have to use your judgment on this. If you don’t know anyone in the relevant area code region and haven’t visited it, don’t call back.

    The scammer won’t say which region he’s calling from. He’ll probably want you to think he’s in the US, so check that code carefully against the list we’ve provided.

    Also, ask yourself how the supposed caller would have your number.

  4. If you do think you should make the call, check the number through online directories first. They will tell you where the phone number is registered.

  5. Always check your phone bill carefully for unexpected and unusual charges. If you get stung by the one ring scam, try to resolve the bill with your cell phone carrier.

  6. Also, ask your carrier about whether numbers from particular areas can be blocked.

  7. If you’ve lost money and can’t get it back from your phone service provider, consider filing a complaint with either the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission.

The one ring scam is just the latest in a number of tricks that crooks use to try to fool you into making calls on premium-charge lines.

We reported on this many years ago, in one of our earliest issues, 809 Phone Scam.

Sad to see that it’s still around in a new guise. So, just remember this simple rule: One ring, one scam!

Alert of the Week: You might have seen recent news reports about the FBI and the Justice Department temporarily halting (or “taking down” as they call it) a widespread botnet (a network of virus-infested PCs controlled by crooks).

The virus goes under the name “Gameover Zeus” and there’s a simple way to check for free if your PC is infected, by visiting this special page created by the security company F-Secure: Gameover Zeus Infection Check.

Of course, there’s also a come-on to buy F-Secure software but you don’t have to in order to check your PC for this malware, so check it right now.

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!