Fraudsters are targeting consumers with one-ring phone scams that exploit people’s curiosity so as to trick them into paying exorbitant fees.
According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), this scam oftentimes begins when a fraudster contacts an unsuspecting consumer using a one-ring phone call. Many of these calls appear to originate from phone numbers that are based in the United States. In other cases, digital attackers use international phone numbers that use three-digit area codes, such as “649” for the Turks and Caicos. They might also leverage caller ID spoofing to conceal the actual origin of these calls.
The purpose of this scam is to pique users’ curiosity so that they’ll call back the mysterious phone number. The FCC explains why in a blog post:
If you call any such number, you risk being connected to a phone number outside the U.S. As a result, you may wind up being charged a fee for connecting, along with significant per-minute fees for as long as they can keep you on the phone. These charges may show up on your bill as premium services.
The FCC also detected some variations of the scam where fraudsters didn’t use one-ring phone calls. Instead, they left phony voice-messages inviting the recipient to “claim a prize” or notifying them about a “sick relative.” They placed such provocative messages to trick the recipient into calling them back.
Weary of all the scam attempts leveraging caller ID spoofing, the FCC has decided to take action against phone-based fraudsters. Ajit Pai, the FCC Chairman, specifically is working with telecommunication companies to help them adopt “robust call authentication” designed to combat illegitimate caller ID spoofing. The FCC hopes it will be able to implement a call authentication framework in 2019.
In the meantime, users should protect themselves against one-ring phone scams and similar ruses by not answering or returning calls from numbers which they don’t recognize. They should also inspect a phone number to determine if it’s from another country before calling it. If they don’t want to make calls to international companies, they can ask their phone company to implement this preference.