One-ring scam hits Whatcom County

Published on Wed, Feb 5, 2014
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Are you receiving phone calls from a phone number in Antigua, Jamaica or another Caribbean island? You’re not alone.

Consumers around the country, including those in Whatcom County, have reported an increase in what is known as the “One-Ring Phone Scam,” in which automated phone dialers blast out thousands of calls to random cell phone numbers, ring once and then disconnect. 

Curious callers who return the hang-up call are redirected to a paid international adult entertainment service, “chat line” or other premium service located outside the country.

Victims of the scam are then billed a $19.95 international call fee, along with per minute charges for the unwanted “premium service,” which can be $9 per minute or more. In some cases, the scammers may only put through a small charge of several dollars, so it won’t arouse suspicion. 

Calls typically originate from outside the U.S., and appear to originate in Antigua or Barbuda (area code 268), the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284) and Grenada (473).

The practice of third parties placing unauthorized charges on wireless accounts is called “cramming.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have reviewed thousands of complaints about the practice, and expect the problem to grow.

The Better Business Bureau recommends that if you don’t recognize an out-of-state telephone number on your caller ID, ignore it and, if you do answer, do not call back. Also, check your cell phone bills carefully and inform your carrier if you spot any unauthorized charges. For more information, visit bbb.org.