Better Business Bureau (BBB) officials have issued a warning about a new scam dubbed the "one ring" scam that adds unauthorized charges to an individual's monthly wireless bill.
The BBB says victims' cellphones often ring only once before the call is disconnected, which is long enough to generate a missed call on the victim's screen. If a person tries to return the call, they are charged a $19.95 international call fee plus $9 a minute for the duration of the call.
Victims have reported the calls coming from Caribbean countries including Antigua, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or the British Virgin Islands. Originating area codes include 268, 274, 473, 809 and 876. Some calls may also be domestic.
Scammers tend to be successful with their efforts because the calls generally originate from countries which use the same country code – the number one – as the United States.
Aaron Reese with the BBB said because the scam raises no red flags, it's way more effective than others that have been tried in the past.
"There is no one trying to sell you anything, there is no one sending the wrong type of message or who has a foreign accent or doesn't speak very well," Reese said. "All of those things that we look for are absent."
BBB officials advised consumers to take note of the originating phone number, and then notify their cellphone carriers immediately if they believe they have been victimized. The organization says that by documenting the fraud, consumers may have a better chance of getting the charges removed.
Here are some tips from the BBB for avoiding cellphone fraud:
• When in doubt, don't pick up or call back. If you don't recognize an out-of-state telephone number on your caller ID, ignore it.
• Understand your mobile bill. Be sure to keep track of what services you pay for, that way you will be able to determine if any charges are unauthorized.
• Keep a close eye on monthly statements. Anyone can become a victim of bill cramming. Monitoring your bill is the best way to determine whether or not you've been affected. The sooner you spot any unexpected charges, the sooner you can stop them.
• Add restrictions to your account. Contact your service provider to see if you can restrict third-party billing on your account.
• Inform other users on your mobile phone plan. It's important to let other friends and family members on your cellphone plan know about this scam, and to ignore phone numbers they do not recognize.