Police are warning everyone to watch out for a dangerous phone scam. People who fall for it may end up paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It’s called the One-Ring Phone Scam.
Phone scams have been around practically since the machine was invented. One-Ring is just the latest variation on a decades-old problem.
Most of us are wise to the typical phone scams, like criminals posing as the IRS to get your financial information. One-Ring works a bit differently.
They summarize the scam briefly, explaining that scammers work by calling victims with a phone number that looks like an ordinary domestic number.
However, these numbers are actually carefully chosen foreign numbers that just look like domestic numbers.
Caroline County makes a point of linking out to a special fact sheet prepared by the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC explains the scam carefully, noting:
“Some wireless consumers receive calls from phone numbers with three-digit area codes that appear to be domestic, but are actually associated with international pay-per-call phone numbers.
These calls often disconnect after one ring, not giving the consumer time to answer the call and tempting them to return the call.
If you receive a call like this and do not recognize the number of the incoming call, do not return the call.”
Almost all of these calls come from international numbers in the Caribbean or in Canada. Some may also come from Eastern Europe.
These international phone numbers are selected because they look a lot like ordinary U.S. phone numbers, and people might be tricked into returning a missed call.
Currently the most popular area code for scammers seems to be 268, for the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
Still, scammers change tactics all the time, so stay alert!
Other area codes to watch out for are 809, 876, 284, and 473.
In fact, the FCC says that you should simply avoid returning calls from any unfamiliar area code.
The calls themselves are also distinctive. Usually, the number comes in and your phone rings once or twice before hanging up.
These numbers might call repeatedly. Sometimes, they also leave automatic robo-voicemails on your phone.
People call back because they’re curious, or because they they have been manipulated into believing they have missed an important call.
The minute you call back, the scam starts for real. Often, you’ll connect with an expensive pay-per-minute or pay-per-call phone line, which will immediately start billing you.
Even if you don’t connect with a pay-per-call service, you will be charged for making an expensive international call.
In some cases, you may also connect with an actual person or with a robotic voice that will try to convince you to sign up for expensive monthly clubs or services. This is a ploy to get your address and credit card information.
If you have been scammed this way before, you can contact the FCC to file a complaint. You may be able to tell your phone company as well.
The best way to protect yourself going forward is to simply ignore calls from strange area codes.