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Voice of the Consumer: Beware of cellphone calls that ring only once

By: BETTY SEXTON KKTV 11 News
March 13, 2016 Updated: March 14, 2016 at 7:08 am
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If you're like me, your cellphone is like your lifeline. You hate it when you see that you've missed a call. You wonder if it was important and may even consider calling back.

But if you don't get a voicemail message, and you don't recognize the number, don't call back.

If you do you could become a victim of "The One-Ring Scam."

Yes, crooks have found a way to program their calls so that your smartphone only rings once. In some cases, the call is disconnected when you answer. If you're like Curious George and call back, you could find a charge from $19.95 to $30 for that call back. The charge could be labeled "Internet Advertising," "Special Services," or even "Minimum Monthly Usage Fee."

The area codes to look out for are: 268 which is Antigua, 284 for the British Virgin Islands, 473 for Grenada, 649 which is Turks and Caicos, 664 for Montserrat, 876 for Jamaica, and 767, 809, 829, and 849, which cover the Dominican Republic and some other islands. Unlike some international calls, they don't require a country code first.

Let's say your curiosity gets the better of you, and you decide to return one of these calls. Don't be surprised when you don't hear a human voice right away. Some people have been connected to elevator music for minutes on end. That's when the real charges kick in, like $9 per minute. Also, don't be shocked if some of these calls come at obscure times such as after midnight or 1 a.m. They're trying to make you think you've missed an emergency phone call.

Another wrinkle is that people don't know they've been scammed until they get their phone bills. The Better Business Bureau in Wisconsin reported this problem back in 2014. At that time a BBB employee got one-ring calls from the area codes of 268 and 767. Her phone displayed "Dominica" for one of the calls. Con artists are again using Robocall technology to prey on folks.

If you do return one of these calls, report it to your cell provider right away. Also ask if certain area codes can be blocked from your phone. If you lose money, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or even the Federal Communications Commission.

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Contact Betty Sexton at bsexton@kktv.com or 578-0000.

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