The Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings about the “one-ring scam” which dupes consumers out of cash when they simply return a missed phone call.
How the One-Ring Scam Works
The one-ring scam is a simple technique: Con artists call your phone, let it ring once, hang up. And wait.
Those consumers who are too curious to ignore an unknown number often call back. In this case, however, that call could be costly – as much as $20 upfront, and per-minute charges upward of $9.
The scammers call from US-looking phone numbers, which fool people into thinking they are making a domestic call.
Can it really cost me $20 or more?
Some urban legend debunking sites have erroneously asserted that customers will not be charged $20 when calling these numbers back. They have made this assertion with the false assumption that the maximum amount callers could be charged is the standard international calling rate by their carrier.
That is not, however, how the one-ring scam works.
Those who call these one-ring numbers back are often routed to a “premium” international “adult entertainment” hotline. These hotlines can immediately charge consumers with a $19.95 connect fee along with sizable per-minute charges.
One-Ring Area Codes to Avoid
The one-ring scam has been reported to come from the following area codes:
- 268 (Antigua)
- 284 (British Virgin Islands)
- 473 (Grenada)
- 664 (Montserrat)
- 649 (Turks & Caicos Islands)
- 767 (Commonwealth of Dominica)
- 809 (Dominican Republic)
- 829 (Dominican Republic)
- 849 (Dominican Republic)
- 876 (Jamaica)
The numbers above show up on caller ID in a US-looking format, leading some consumers to believe they are dialing a US number back.
If you called back
August 2014 Warning
The one-ring scam was in the news again in August 2014. ABC30 in Fresno ran a story reporting that police in Chicago were warning about the one-ring scam occurring around the country. The story cited the same area codes we listed above as those to avoid. That report states that if you have been scammed, you should contact your carrier or file complaints with the FTC and FCC.
WSPA in South Carolina published a story in 2015 which claims that the one ring scam is making a comeback, noting that many customers in the area had reported receiving these types of calls.
Katherine Hutt of the BBB offers the following advice: “If it’s unknown, leave it alone. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t call back.” If you feel you’ve been scammed, contact your carrier immediately.
If you have been contacted by one of the area codes above, leave us a comment below to let us know of your experience.
Updated August 18, 2015
Originally published February 2014