Katherine K was sound asleep at 2 A.M. one morning when she heard her cell phone ring once.
Concerned that an early morning phone call might be an emergency Katherine looked at her phone to see who had called, but she didn’t recognize the number of the missed call.
Fearing it was an important call from a friend or family member Katherine immediately called the number back.
When she called back, the call was answered with music and a recording that said, “Hold for the operator.” Luckily, Katherine thought something was weird and hung up right away.
So far, no suspicious charges have appeared on her bill, but she may be one of the few who doesn’t lose money from this scam.
The way this cell phone scam works is the scammers use automatic dialers to randomly call phone numbers. After the first ring, they disconnect.
The bad guys hope you’ll see that number in your missed call log and be curious enough to return it. However, once you make that call they’ve got you.
Typically, you’ll be connected to an expensive international hotline that charges as much as $19.95 as soon as you connect. There may also be sizable per-minute fees.
Those costs typically show up on your phone bill as “premium services.” But you are never notified or told that you are accruing costs.
Unfortunately, people with mobile devices are the prime target for this dial-and-disconnect scam because every cell phone has caller ID and a missed call log.
Since long-distance calls are typically free with cell phone plans, most of us don’t think twice about placing a call to another area code that appears to be in the U.S.
Plus, with a cell phone you don’t even need to dial a 1 first when calling long distance.
The reason this scam is so successful is because it aims to pique victim’s curiosity so that they’ll call back the unknown phone number.
Since this scam can prove to be very costly to the victims I want to share with you a few ways to keep yourself safe to avoid falling for this type of scam.
Block international calls. These scams originate from phone numbers that aren’t in the U.S. even though they may appear to have a U.S. area code. F
or this reason I recommend contacting your wireless provider and asking them to block international phone calls to and from your cell phone. Unless you have a friend or relative that you speak to regularly overseas I would do this immediately.
Frankly, even if you needed to speak with someone internationally it would be cheaper to use Face Time or similar internet apps. So blocking international calls should not impact your typically cell phone use.
Never call unknown numbers. Obviously, if your family or friends are calling you should have their phone number in your phone and you should know who it is.
On the other hand, you probably receive work calls or doctor appointment confirmations where you may not recognize the phone number. If you don’t recognize the phone number I would simply let it go unanswered to your voicemail.
If it is important enough the caller will leave you a voicemail. Another thing is you could ask callers to leave you a message or to text you if they would like you to call them back.
Search the phone number online. Let’s say the same phone number keeps calling but never leaves a voicemail. Undoubtedly, this would peak your interest as to who is constantly calling.
In this case you could do an online search of the phone number that keeps calling. Oftentimes, you can easily tell if a number is part of a scam after doing an online search.
Watch your phone bill. The thing is, if you do happen to call back the scammers you will most likely be charged without ever knowing it. What I mean is, it’s your responsibility to watch your cell phone bill just like you would check and review your credit card bill.
If you do see an unknown charge on your bill immediately contact your provider to dispute the charge. Unfortunately, they may not refund the charges but it’s up to the wireless provider.
Deny third party charges. Another way to stop scammers in their tracks is to contact your cell phone provider and ask them to block third party charges. These are charges that don’t come from the cell phone company but still appear on your cell phone bill.
For example, some charities may ask for donations through text messages, however the donation would actually appear on your cell phone bill since you aren’t providing them with banking information. If you block third party charges no one will be able to add charges to your phone bill.
The reality is international scammers are always looking for new ways to target victims. The best thing to do is to never answer or return a phone call from a number that you aren’t familiar with.
Of course, if your curiosity gets the best of you, make sure you have taken these steps to minimize the chances of being a victim. The last thing you want to do is buy your Uncle in Nigeria a new house.