Feb 5th, 2014

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]