Mobile phone scam relies on returning missed calls

Have a missed call on your cell phone from somewhere in the Caribbean Islands like Antigua or Grenada?

Don’t call it back, it’s scam and will cost you at least $20.

The Better Business Bureau in Pittsburgh is warning cell phone users about a new ‘One Ring’ scam that can result in unauthorized charges and international fees that will appear on their cell phone bill.

Fraudsters using the ‘One Ring’ scam have programmed computers to call thousands of random cell phone numbers to ring only once before disconnecting.

Cell phone users who return the missed call are reporting being connected to music and advertising messages or an international adult entertainment service or chat line, the Better Business Bureau said.

Cell phone users are then charged $19.95 for the international call fee and an additional $9.90 per minute just for returning the call.

Scammers are targeting consumers’ curiosity to get them to return the missed call, even though it’s an unknown number. Consumers have reported the area codes are from the Caribbean, including Grenada (473), Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), the British Virgin Islands (284) and Antigua (268).

“Though your Better Business Bureau has not received complaints regarding this scam yet, we anticipate some Western Pennsylvania call phone users will be affected by these random calls,” said Warren King, president of the BBB of Western PA. “Reports of the ‘One Ring’ scam are continuing to grow and complaints and inquiries are being received by BBBs across the country.”

The BBB recommends people who may have been a victim of the scam to immediately alert their cell phone numbers, especially if the area code is out of state or from a different country. Do not return the phone call, the BBB advised, adding that if it is important, the caller will leave a message.

Locally, Warren County Sheriff Ken Klakamp said another scam has been reported where residents are told to wire money to U.S. Customs to deliver presents.

“If it’s too good to be true, it is,” he said.

People have sent money, he said, and anyone thinking of doing so should contact the sheriff’s office or another law enforcement agency.

“We’ll be more than glad to check them out and give them any information we can come up with,” he said.

Verizon Wireless spokesman Laura Merritt said customers should contact Verizon Wireless customer service if they receive any suspicious or unexpected text messages or calls. They can either call 800-922-0204, go to a store or visit www.verizonwireless.com.

“You have an incoming call from an area code you don’t recognize. When you don’t pick up the phone, you receive a voice mail message asking you to call back to claim a winning prize or to hear important information about someone you know. The common element is you’re told to call a certain number back right away,” a Verizon blog post on scams said. “A scam? Of course it is.”

Cell phone users can protect themselves by not returning a call to an area code they don’t know, Verizon recommends. Consumers can check the location of unfamiliar area codes by going to the North American Numbering Plan Administration website or by doing a simple Google search of the suspect area code. Verizon users who received persistent calls from the same number can block it at no charge through the My Verizon webpage.