Phone scam alert: Why returning a one-ring call could cost you

By Margaret Kavanagh, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, February 06, 2014, 10:27 AM EST

Are you getting a lot of phone calls on your cell phone where it only rings once and then hangs up? If so, it may be a scammer trying to get you to fall into their costly trap. It's called the One Ring Phone Scam.

Since Christmas, Susan Mitchell has been getting strange calls. Her cell phone rings once and shows she has a missed call from Aruba.

She said it happens about three times a week. "I don’t have any friends or family in Aruba," said Mitchell.

Experts with the Better Business Bureau said scammers hope people like Mitchell will be curious enough to return that missed call. However, they warn people don't do it.

Once the person calls the number back, they're charged approximately $20 for the call and $9 for every additional minute. Experts with the Better Business Bureau said it is happening more and more.

"Since the holidays, there has definitely been a spike in these calls," Central Florida Better Business Bureau Vice President Holly Salmons said. "The Better Business Bureau has heard from consumers all over the country. It seems to have started with consumers on the east coast and most definitely moved across the country."

Experts said it’s called phone cramming, when automated dialers send out thousands of calls to random numbers.

Most of the area codes are from the Caribbean Islands, but Better Business Bureau leaders said there is no way for them to really know where the calls are coming from.

"I do get angry," Mitchell said. "You are invading my privacy and my personal cell phone that’s actually on a do not call list."

The Better Business Bureau said don’t return calls that you don’t recognize from foreign numbers.  

They encourage people to review their cell phone statements contact your cellular carrier immediately if you notice unauthorized charges.

The following are a list of area codes the Better Business Bureau said is connected with the scam:

  • Dominican Republic - 809
  • Jamaica - 876
  • British Virgin Islands - 284
  • Grenada - 473
  • Aruba - 297
  • Antigua - 473