Photo of various smart phones, taken on December 25, 2013. PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images
Clearwater, Florida-- Cell phone users everywhere should be cautious of a new scam that could jack up their phone bills for simply answering the phone, or returning a missed call.
The Better Business Bureau has received several reports of what they're calling "Ring and Runs", or "The One Ring Scam" from wireless customers nationwide.
One after another, people are reporting missed calls from a number unknown to them- all which stop after just one ring. Then, despite not recognizing the number, victims say they return the call...only to later find unauthorized charges on their monthly statements.
According to the BBB, this type of scam, called "cramming", is done by third parties who are legally able to bill customers for their "service" through the person's phone company- even if the person does not know they are even using a "service".
Here's how the scam worked in these cases:
The victims were called from third parties located outside the country. Those who returned the calls were billed an initial fee of $19.95 for placing an international call.
And anyone who remained on the line listening to the third party's hold music or advertisements...they were billed another $9.00 per minute until the call's end.
The BBB says the area codes commonly reported have been from the Caribbean:
- Dominican Republic (809)
- Jamaica (876)
- British Virgin Islands (284)
- Grenada (473)
- Dominica (767)
Anyone who has fallen for this scam is encouraged to alert their cell phone carrier immediately, and keep a close eye on all cell phone bills.
"The earlier you document the fraud, the better your chances of having some or all of the charges removed," they say.
They also suggest following these tips to prevent becoming a victim of this scam:
- 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.
- Bottom Line - If it's Unknown, Leave it alone.
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