Crime Tracker: One Ring Phone Scam


By Sam Jones
By Andy Shofstall
By Benjy Jeffords

WSIL -- Scammers are targeting cell phone users in our region right now. The criminals lure unsuspecting victims to return calls to unknown numbers. Later, those victims see big fees on their phone bill.

Millions of Americans rely on cell phones each day. It's a common means of communication now targeted by scammers in a new way.

"My phone rang one time, one time only," said Pittsburg's Jim Merrow.

Hence the name: the one ring phone scam. It's spread quickly across the country, and Merrow's one of many to get the call.

"I looked over at the phone and it rang and thought I don't recognize that number," he explained.

The strategy, according to the Better Business Bureau:

"They're likely computer generated calls where the computer is able to make a large volume of calls in a short amount of time and then be programmed to only ring once," Chris Thetford added.

Scammers hope victims' curiosity will prevail and they'll call the number back. Merrow didn't fall for it. He searched the number online and found it wasn't anywhere near Southern Illinois.

"I was like Dominican Republic? Oh ya this has ugly written all over it," Merrow said.

Merrow found dozens of warnings online, from people who got calls from the same phone number.

"They put you on hold and the music's playing and the whole time it's racking up your phone bill," he read.

The Better Business Bureau says most of the numbers are registered to the Caribbean. Victims who return the missed call are automatically hit with a $19.95 international fee; that's along with $9.00 for every minute on the line.

"It's really a variation on a scam we have heard before... Clearly they're targeting mobile phones so they can cram their phone bills with these charges," Thetford warned.

Merrow's on the do not call list. Apparently the crooks found a way around that. Caution prevented fees from coming his way; he hopes others will keep their guard up too.

"If you don't know the number and they don't leave a voicemail you can Google the number and see if it's something local," Merrow advised.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to not return calls from unknown numbers. If you do, contact your cell phone provider immediately. It's your best bet to avoid those fees. For now, authorities don't know who's behind this scam.

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