Consumer Alert: ‘One-ring’ cell phone scam empties wallets

(Photo: WKRN)

To call back or not to call back that is the question.  However, if curiosity overcomes you and you decide to call back an unfamiliar number, it could cost you some serious cash.  

“It's a very sly scam,” said Kathleen Calligan, CEO/President of the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the “one-ring” cell phone scam is sweeping the nation and affecting one million Americans each day.

Here's how it works – scammers auto-dial cell phones numbers across the country at random.  The victim's cell phone rings once and then disconnects.  

Those who call the number back are then connected to overseas adult entertainment or other expenses services and are charged for every minute they are on the phone.

If you make the mistake returning the call, you could be charged a $19.95 international call fee plus, $9 or more per minute for the unwanted service.

The calls are from phone numbers with three-digit area codes that look like they are from inside the United States, but actually are associated with international phone numbers, often in the Caribbean.

The area codes include 268, 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849 and 876.

“If you don't recognize the number, make it your own personal policy that you don't return the call,” said Calligan.

Experts advise those who are tempted to call back an unfamiliar number to look-up that number using search engines like Google or plug in that number in an app like Truecaller to avoid being scammed.  

Those who have been a victim of the “one-ring” scam, try to resolve the charges with your cell phone carrier.

If that doesn't work, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

Finally, as a general rule cell phone users are encouraged to read their bill often line by line. If you don't recognize or understand a charge, contact your carrier.

Keep in mind, there's no danger in getting the call.  The scam only occurs if you call back the fraudulent number.

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