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FCC Warns Against 'One-Ring' Robocall Scam

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Scammers are using robot programs to lure consumers into making costly long-distance phone calls. The One Ring or "Wangiri" scam convinces people to call back unidentified numbers to rack up a huge phone bill.   ( Pixabay )

Federal authorities are warning the public against a new scam where victims would get a mysterious one-ring robocall urging them to call the number back.

The Federal Communications Commission has received several reports regarding an illegal scheme that lures people into making long-distance phone calls.

Known as the "One Ring" or "Wangiri" scam, it works by having targets unwittingly connect to a bogus overseas number. This would cause them to rack up a huge phone bill, a portion of which would be paid to the scammers.

Some variations of the scam also use voicemail to convince people to call back so they could claim a "prize."

Others take advantage of personal connections, pretending to call on behalf of targets' sick relatives or friends. They would then ask the victims to call the number so they could get more information.

Most of these robocalls have made use of Mauritania's "222" country code. Widespread overnight callings were reported in Arizona and New York State.

Experts advise people not to pay attention to such identified callers.

"Do not call back numbers you do not recognize, especially those appearing to originate overseas," the FCC said.

The agency also urged consumers to file a complaint if they were to receive unscrupulous phone calls.

Robocall Scams

The One Ring scam is the latest phone calling scheme victimizing people in the United States.

In fact, 4.9 billion robocalls have already been made to unsuspecting Americans as of April, according robocall blocking service YouMail. This translates to about 163.5 million bogus phone calls every day.

Scammers also seem to be staying a step ahead of law enforcement, developing newer and more advanced spoofing programs that imitate legitimate phone numbers from different places.

Many of these programs are used for international revenue share fraud, according to an article by The New York Times. This scheme sees criminals drive phone calls specifically to premium rate phone numbers. They would then get a significant kickback from every call made.

Tim Prugar, an expert from fraud detection company Next Caller, said the potential cost to consumers depend on the location of the number as well as the duration of the phone call.

Spoofing programs allow scammers to mask the identity of the overseas phone numbers. This is why most victims do not recognize the robocalls because they are hidden behind authentic U.S. phone numbers.

The FCC said criminals are also benefiting from new technologies that help phone calling scams easier and cheaper to conduct.

Incidents similar to the One Ring robocalls were detected three years ago. The FCC said these calls were made using area codes from countries in the Caribbean such as the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Turks and Caicos.

How To Deal With One Ring Robocalls

The FCC offered several steps on how consumers can properly deal with the One Ring scam and other phone calling schemes:

  • Avoid calling back unrecognized phone numbers, especially if they appear to come from overseas.
  • Notify the phone company if an international call was accidentally made because of a scam. Have outbound calls overseas blocked to prevent bills from going out of hand.
  • Report any incidence of phone calling scams to the FCC at www.fcc.gov/complaints.
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