Scam Alert: Unknown calls from Caribbean islands could unknowingly cost $20 to return


Scams come and go, and some are so obvious and easily avoidable that we often don’t think twice about them. But if you’re not careful, the latest big phone scam could end up costing you unauthorized charges on your smartphone bill.

It’s being called the “one ring scam,” and it’s so big that the Better Business Bureau has taken notice and is starting to issue warnings to people to prevent them from falling victim to it. So how does it work?

phone scam

Victims will usually receive a phone call from a strange number ranging from the following areas:

  • Grenada (area code 473)
  • Antigua or Barbuda (area code 268),
  • Jamaica (area code 876)
  • British Virgin Islands (284)
  • Dominican Republic (area code 809)

You will likely only hear the ring once, as they will immediately hang up. This would typically prompt a dial  back from most folks as they try and figure out who it was (as it may be some sort of emergency).

The danger isn’t in the incoming call, but in the act of calling back — giving them a ring will somehow allow them to authorize charges on your monthly phone bill. BBB reports that an initial charge of $19.95 is made for an international call fee, and users will then be charged $9 for each minute they stay on the line.

How to avoid it

The simple and most important answer is to refuse to answer or call back numbers you don’t recognize, especially if they are out of state. As long as you don’t initiate the call to any of these malicious numbers, you should be fine. There are some other general things to keep in mind, though:

  • Google: enter any number you don’t recognize into a Google search. There are vast communities of folks out there who discuss unknown phone numbers and scams associated with them.
  • You have a smartphone, so use its smarts. If your device was made within the past couple of years, it likely has a call block feature. Find it. Use it. If you don’t have one, download one from the Google Play Store.
  • Your carrier may also have a network-level call blocking feature as well, so be sure to ask them about your options and give them the unsavory numbers you wish to block. The incoming call alone won’t kick this scam off, but if you take measures to make sure you don’t get the call in the first place you’ll be much better off.
  • Please note that numbers might change, so you’ll always have to be on your toes.

And those are just the basics. You shouldn’t just be taking protective measures for this specific scam, though.

General tips to avoid any phone scam

I tend to be overly cautious no matter what. My personal routine consists of not answering ANY unknown numbers or blocked numbers, even if they’re from within your state or area.

If the subject matter of the call is important enough, they’ll leave a voicemail, identify themselves and give you the reason for their call. Once you assure yourself that they’re legit and have some important matters to discuss with you, give them a ring back (but again, not before Googling the number to see if any reports have been made about it).

In the event that a caller does seem legit, it’s still worth taking the safe route. If they claim they’re a local entity, tell them that you’re only willing to do business with them in person. If they aren’t, tell them that you’re only willing to do business via courier mail services.

Demand that they send official documentation and letters in regards to whatever matter they’re calling from with the official masthead for that company. It may sound like a lot, but anyone is subject to being scammed — I have siblings whose credit reports took forever to fix as a result.

What about you?

I’ve dodged plenty of scams (as well as generally annoying calls from telemarketers) over the years using these methods, and have yet to miss out on an important call as a result. Give it a try if you don’t already take measures to protect yourself, and be sure to let us know if you do anything differently in the comments section below!

[via iSource]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. Good thing I google EVERY unknown phone number that calls me. This scam actually hit me last night.

    1. Same here. Didn’t even ring. I saw my phone light up and immediately the call ended.


      I wondered what that was, and since the area code is unfamiliar to me, I didn’t bother with it, assumed it was a wrong number.

    2. Another thing I’ve used to help block these guys is add any of these numbers to the black list on my Avast security app. Blocks text and calls from any number you add. Works perfectly. New scam number? Your going on the black list!

  2. I don’t answer any calls from anyone that is not on my contact list. If its important enough, they will leave a message. Yes, I am that paranoid.

    1. Your not paranoid, your smart. I do the same. I don’t even leave my name, just this: “Hello caller. You’ve dialed ***-***-****. Please leave a detailed message and your phone call may be returned. Have a splendid day.”

      No message? No return call. And I always do a reverse look up on numbers I don’t recognize. Everyone in my contact list has a specific unique ringtone I’ve made so I always know when someone from my list is calling without looking at the phone.

      When a number NOT on my list or unknown number calls, I have the “Flight To Compound” music from Zero Dark Thirty!


  3. I received one of these. Fortunately, instead of dialing back I googled the area code. Say it was done place in the Caribbean and decided if it was truly important they’d call back. Glad I didn’t try to call the number.

    1. That’s what I have been doing..It works

    2. I’ve always Googled unknown numbers and let me tell you… there are about 5 to 10 websites that make BANK on listing every possible phone number on the planet. Half the time they have the goods and have the time it’s just a placeholder page.

      Either way I’m not calling the number back… if it was important enough they would leave a message and/or call me back.

  4. I Hate people that ignore unknown numbers. Why would you do that, you can’t be charged for incoming calls and it is annoying as hell. Calling someone from parents/friends home or mobile if you forgot yours/out of battery and they don’t pick up

    1. So leave a message.

      1. where i am from, most people have their mailbox disabled in order not to annoy others to a) pay for the call b) leave a message because many people don’t like having to talk onto a mailbox

        1. Again…..

          Personal problem…..

    2. Text me, email me, or message me on Facebook or Twitter. I don’t answer my phone even if I DO know who it’s from, because my ringer is turned off at all times. I use about 10 minutes per month, and that’s all outgoing calls to businesses I deal with.

      Also, I check my voicemail about once every 2 months.

      Suck it.

    3. If it was really you and you were my friend, you wouldn’t let it ring only once. Because you would know I never pick up on the first ring. If I couldn’t answer the call at the time, you’d leave a message.

      Otherwise, I wouldn’t be calling back, you’d likely get annoyed with me and we likely wouldn’t be friends for long.

      Hence, I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

    4. Don’t call people who ignore unknown numbers. Leave a message. Call from a known number. Be better prepared. There are plenty of ways to contact someone nowadays. Sounds like a personal problem….

  5. Yay, free cruises!

    I hate these and any scam calls…

  6. Unfortunately many people here in the states have relatives and friend in those countries and they might fall for this scam. They may think that it’s one of their relatives or friend who just got a new number. When I get a call from from DR and I don’t recognize the number I wait for them to call again and if they don’t I just forget about the call. Now days there are various ways to reach a person email, various apps and text.

  7. If you hang up before I answer or I don’t recognize the number I never call back.
    If it was an emergency they would stay on the line.

    1. Or at the very least leave a message. I agree though, I don’t call back single ring numbers I don’t know either.

  8. The guy in the pic: “If I wear this mask they won’t recognize my calls”

    1. I was going to ask, do phone scammers really wear masks?

  9. It’s easy to avoid this scam. One ring, no message, unknown number? Don’t worry about it, and don’t call it back. Simple. Scam avoided.

    Never understood some people’s compulsion to call back numbers they don’t know that leave no message.

    1. Agreed! I never call back a number I don’t know if there is no message…

    2. > “Never understood some people’s compulsion to call back numbers they
      > don’t know…”

      I’m guessing you’re under 40. In the olden days, getting a phone call meant that a person (as in `alive’) had to pay money (as in money) to contact you via the ear-mouth-tube amplifier contraption. It was only polite to reciprocate.

      Now, get off my lawn!

      1. LOL, nice attempt to marginalize my argument. You fail though as I am in fact over 40. Just turned 41 actually in January. Now, get off MY lawn!

        1. Both of you get off my lawn!

  10. I have Mr Number on my phone which seems to do a pretty good job of identifying SPAM phone calls. Does anyone have any experience with similar apps?

  11. I had this problem about a month ago got phone calls around 3 am in the morning for a week straight

  12. Weird iv gotta few of these unknown calls recently meh anyway I don’t answer calls I don’t recognize if its so important they can leave me a voicemail

  13. I’ve gotten these calls about four or five times in the last couple of days. I’ve just ignored them because I figured it was one of those prerecorded scam calls. Either way, I never intended to call back. It’s nice to know what it really is though.

  14. I think I just got one of these phone calls last night. Luckily, I never answer my phone no matter what.

    My ringer is off at all times and I use up 0 minutes per month. My friends/family know me well enough to message me instead of calling me… I kinda have a thing against phone calls.

  15. Go Prepaid!!!! No way for the phone company to bill you…. LOL

  16. You peeps need to stop being so darn curious. Lol

  17. I got two calls from these numbers. Luckily I never call back numbers I don’t recognize…

  18. You would think by 2014 we’d have enough technology to simply put a “Warning, the following call you are about to make will result in a surcharge of $19.99 for the first minute and $9.99 each additional minute. Press pound if you wish to proceed”. Phone companies who allow this are just as much of a scammer as the guys who exploit these flaws.

  19. My solution to phone scams….Google Voice. I use google voice to screen all calls as it is my primary phone number that all people I talk to have. People in my contacts dont notice the screen, but anyone not in my contacts have to identify themselves(like you would for a collect call) before it starts to ring. Then on my side of the phone I hear the automated system say “call from [name of person calling] to accept, press 1, to send to voicemail press 2”.

    If I send the call to voicemail I can listen to the voicemail as they leave it or join the call at any time.

    And of course if you get spam calls you can mark them as spam and never see another call or message from them again.


  20. If its a number I don’t recognize regardless of an area code I’m familiar with, I send it directly to voice mail. Same with these morons who hide their number. If they need to talk to me, they can leave a message. But yeah, if it’s an an area code I don’t know, I Google it. I can’t begin to tell you how many scams I avoided just by doing the above, phew.

  21. Out of curiosity
    Is it legal?
    be charged in U$ 20.00 dollars for less than a minute on the phone?

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