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One-ring phone scam banks on people's curiosity

By Bill Gephardt | Posted - Feb 17th, 2014 @ 7:55am


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SALT LAKE CITY — The nationwide surge of a scam shows how thieves prey on people’s curiosity. The scammers call random cell phone numbers and let it ring once. Those who take the bait and call back face huge fees. Bob Bates gets several calls a day, but some recent ones raised his eyebrows. “It rang once and I looked at it. It said Antigua,” he explained. Bates didn't answer because he doesn’t know anyone in Antigua. Then he received a second call from the same number, so he blocked the number. “Within a few more minutes I got another call from Antigua with a different phone number,” he said. A few minutes later he received a fourth call. “This time, it’s from Grenada. I’m going, ‘Grenada, no!’” he said. "Antigua, Grenada — we’ve even seen Barbados,” said Jane Driggs of the Utah Better Business Bureau. That office gets about a dozen calls on this scam every day, she said. Here's how it works: Scammers use auto-dialers to randomly call phone numbers. After the first ring, they hang up. They hope those they called will see the number on the cell phone's missed call log and be curious enough to call back that number. “It’s on your cell phone, so you think it should be someone who knows you,” Driggs explained. When cell phone owners call back, thieves "cram" their mobile phone bill with bogus charges — $20 for the first minute, $9 for every extra minute. “Sometimes they place you on hold, the call goes through at more money per minute,” Driggs said. The calls are from area codes like 473, which is Grenada. But numbers from several Caribbean area countries are also included in the scam. It works because those numbers look like a run-of-the-mill long-distance call. “They’re trying to trick people into thinking it’s in the U.S.,” Driggs said. Bates said, “Maybe it’s high tech but it’s still robbery as far as I’m concerned.” Authorities have had a tough time tracking down the scammers. Investigators advise cell phone owners to not answer calls from numbers they don't recognize, and resist the urge to return the call. “Don’t call the number,” Bates said.

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