Beware of the “One Ring” Robocall Scam
Americans receive far too many robocalls. Last month? It was 5.3 billion. And trust us, the problem is growing. While these scam calls have varying intentions (none of them great), many of them seek to acquire personal information. They can do this by impersonating the IRS and threatening an audit, pretending to be a loan company that claims you’re overdue, or even saying that they’re affiliated with a certain political party asking for phony donations.
There are plenty of ways that scammers scam, and one common scam is the one-ring robocall. One-ring robocalls can be annoying and time-consuming – and they also can be dangerous. Why are they dangerous? When people fall for these one-ring scams, which are often quite convincing, they’re at risk of falling victim to identity theft and financial exploitation.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from one-ring scam calls. The first step is education, and the next is fighting back. Let’s dive in.
What is the One-Ring Phone Scam?
The one-ring phone scam is a scam tactic that targets mobile phone users. Unlike other phone scams, the goal of this one isn’t to get people to answer. Scammers actually want to entice victims into calling them back. The scam works like this:
You see a number come through on your mobile phone. The call appears to be from a U.S. phone number that you don’t recognize. Surprisingly, though, the phone only rings once. Your interest is piqued, and you decide to call back. When you call back? You’re connected to a phone number outside the U.S. This can lead to surprise charges, like international call fees and high per-minute talk rates, on your next bill.
There are a few variations on this scam. In some cases, scammers will use “spoofing” techniques, which means the caller will deliberately mask caller ID information to make it seem as if the call is coming from a local or familiar number. Another variation is that one-ring scammers will leave a recorded voicemail message, which urges you to call the number back to collect a prize, resolve a debt, or get time-sensitive information about a sick relative.
According to Consumer Affairs, “When the consumer calls back, they’re hit with significant phone charges of which the scammer gets a share. Those fees could be as much as $19.95, plus a large per minute charge as high as $9 per minute.” And if you engage with these scammers? You can be at risk of identity theft, financial exploitation, and expensive credit card scams.
Consumer Affairs lists some of the tell-tale signs of these one-ring phone scams. “Most often, the FCC says the area codes that show up are from Caribbean countries, such as 649 (the Turks and Caicos) or 809 (Dominican Republic).” Similar scams have also been, “linked to area codes 473 (Grenada); 876 and 658 (Jamaica); and 284 (British Virgin Islands).”
There are a few variations on this scam, though. In some cases, scammers will use “spoofing” techniques, which means the tell-tale signs listed by Consumer Affairs won’t be there. The calls won’t be coming from obviously international phone numbers. The caller will actually mask the caller ID information to make it seem as if the call is coming from a local or familiar number, rather than an international one.
Another variation is that one-ring scammers will leave a recorded voicemail message, which urges you to call the number back to collect a prize, resolve a debt, or get time-sensitive information about a sick relative.
— The FCC (@FCC) May 6, 2019
If you suspect you’ve just fallen for the One-Ring phone scam, here’s what the FCC’s one-ring consumer guide says about how to deal with this scam if you’ve been impacted:
Filing a complaint with the FCC
If you are billed for a call you made as a result of this scam, first try to resolve the matter with your telephone company. If you are unable to resolve it directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC at not cost.
Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
If you feel that you are a victim of an international phone scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC.
How to Identify Phone Scams
If you’ve ever received a scam call, you know it can be difficult, sometimes, to differentiate between a legitimate notification and spam. After all, it’s frightening to hear a recorded message telling you your social security number has been suspended!
Because of this, it’s essential to learn the signs of a phone scam. These include the following:
- It sounds too good to be true. If you get a call from a stranger who tells you you’ve been specially selected for an offer, won a special prize, or hit the jackpot in a foreign lottery, it’s a sure-fire sign of a scam. Remember: phone scams work by sweeping you off your feet. The less time you have to think about the pitch, the better.
- They ask for personal information over the phone. Scammers posing as professional organizations (like the IRS or DMV) will typically tip their hands by asking for personal information over the phone. Avoid this trap by keeping your credit card, checking account, social security numbers, and other sensitive information to yourself.
- The pressure is high. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “Fast talkers who use high-pressure tactics could be hiding something. Take your time. Most legitimate businesses will give you time and written information about an offer before asking you to commit to a purchase.”
If you’re not sure whether what you’re dealing with is a scam call, you can always ask the person for a number at which to call them back. If it’s not the same number the legitimate organization (the IRS, DMV, Social Security Administration, etc.) lists on their website or your account statements, you know the call was a scam.
The Do’s and Don’ts of One-Ring Phone Calls
When it comes to avoiding scam calls, the AARP has some good advice.
How not to handle One-Ring phone calls:
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
- Don’t return one-ring calls from unknown numbers. These may be scams to get you to call hotlines in African and Caribbean countries that have U.S.-style three-digit area codes, and you could incur hefty connection and per-minute fees.
- Don’t follow instructions on a prerecorded message, such as “Press 1” to speak to a live operator (it will probably lead to a phishing expedition) or press any key to get taken off a call list (it will probably lead to more robocalls).
- Don’t give personal or financial data, such as your Social Security number or credit card account number, to callers you don’t know. If they say they have the information and just need you to confirm it, that’s a trick.
How to handle One-Ring phone calls:
- Do put your phone number on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. It won’t stop spam calls, but it will make them easier to spot because most legitimate telemarketers won’t call you if you’re on the registry.
- Do consider using a call-blocking mobile app or device to screen your calls and weed out spam and scams. You can also ask your phone-service provider if it offers any blocking tools.
- Do hang up on illegal robocalls.
- Do slow down and ask questions of telemarketers. Legitimate businesses and charities will answer questions and give you time to consider a purchase or donation. Scam callers will pressure you to commit right away.
- Do independently research travel deals, charities or business and investment opportunities you hear about by phone.
When the One-Ring Caller Succeeds
Have you returned the phone call of a one-ring dialer? Did they convince you that you’re overdue on a loan, that you owe back taxes, or that your credit card has been compromised? If you think you’ve fallen victim to a one-ring phone scam, here’s what the FCC’s one-ring consumer guide says that you should do.
If you are billed for a call you made as a result of this scam, first try to resolve the matter with your telephone company. If you are unable to resolve it directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC at no cost. If you feel that you are a victim of an international phone scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC.
Stopping the One-Ring Phone Scam in its Tracks
The one-ring scam is annoying, expensive, and potentially dangerous, but can you stop it? Fortunately, the answer is yes! The first step is knowing what immediate steps to take. Here are a few the FTC recommends:
- Never answer or return calls from unknown numbers
- Check on area codes you don’t recognize. While they may look domestic, they’re likely international
- If you do not have cause to make international calls, ask your phone carrier to block your line from initiating outgoing international calls
Next Level Phone Security
Take your phone security one step further, and download RoboKiller to stop the one-ring phone scam for good. Why RoboKiller? RoboKiller stops 99% of unwanted calls by using machine-learning, audio algorithms, and personalized blacklists and whitelists to go beyond the Caller ID.
As if that’s not enough, RoboKiller makes spam blocking fun by deploying Answer Bots to confuse and repel spammers. They trick spammers into thinking that they’re talking to a real person – stealing time from them and giving it back to you! Does it work? Yep! In 2019, Answer Bots wasted more than 138,791 hours of spammers’ time.
Between RoboKiller’s machine-learning audio algorithms, spammer blacklists, and even the Answer Bots, the one-ring phone scam doesn’t stand a chance. If you want to save time, protect your personal information, and take your phone line back – RoboKiller is a great place to start.