A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Scam Alert: Do not answer or return ‘one ring’ calls — or calls from any number you don’t recognize

A warning from the Federal Communications Commission has prompted the Attorney General’s office to issue a scam alert on “one ring” phone calls, which can lead to hefty phone bills.

The FCC says both phone numbers in the U.S. and from international area codes that also use three digits are being used in the scam, which is being reported across the country.

The scam is carried out when a victim misses a phone call from an unknown number, calls the number back and is connected to a scammer that is collecting toll fees similar to dialing a 1-900 number.

“Kentuckians who return these phone calls could be subject to hefty international connection fees and per-minute charges they might not catch until their next phone bill,” said Attorney General Andy Beshear. “The best advice is to not return unknown phone calls and always review your phone bill for bogus charges.”

The Better Business Bureau serving Central & Eastern Kentucky has also issued a warning, adding that sometimes the calls may come in the middle of the night.

Heather Clary, director of communications for the BBB, said, “It is human nature to be annoyed enough, and curious enough, about the origin of a middle-of-the-night call that you might call it back to see who it is. However, in this case, that could be an expensive decision.”

Beshear said scammers may also employ caller ID spoofing to make the calls appear to be from regions that also use three-digit codes, disguising that these are actually international calls. For example, there is no 222 area code currently used in the United States, but the country code 222 from Mauritania is one of the numbers being reported.

To help Kentuckians avoid “one ring” billing charges, Beshear, the FCC and the Better Business Bureau of Central and Eastern Kentucky offer these tips:

— Do not answer numbers you don’t recognize. Even if you hang up, scammers may mark your phone as a target.

— Do not call back numbers you don’t recognize, especially those appearing to be from another country.

— If you never make international calls, consider talking to your phone company about blocking outbound international calls to prevent accidental tolls.

— Always check your phone bill for charges you don’t recognize.

Beshear said Americans received almost 18 billion scam calls in 2018 and overall scam calls increased in the U.S. by 57% from 2017 to 2018. The FCC reports that imposter scams cost consumers $488 million in 2018 alone.

If you receive one of these calls, you can file a complaint with the FCC at www.fcc.gov/complaints, submit a report to BBB Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker and file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office at this web site.

Kentucky Attorney General

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