A new phone scam using international area codes has experts warning cell phone owners not to call back if they get a missed call from an unfamiliar area code, urging them to check the number against a list of area codes known for a costly scam.
Sometimes the perpetrators will just ring once and hang up. Other times, they will wait for people to answer and play “a recording of someone crying for help or the sounds of someone in need of medical attention or under attack.” Other times, they’ll send a text message to the same effect.
While the numbers may look like they’re coming from a U.S. area code, they actually aren’t. Instead, they come from one of a number of Caribbean countries and territories which use the North American numbering plan. In other words, their numbers begin with +1 just like ours. However, their laws are different, and they allow for what look like regular numbers to exact exorbitant charges.
“The scammers hope you’ll call back, either because you believe a legitimate call was cut off, or you will be curious about who called,” the Federal Trade Commission warned back in 2014.
“If you do, chances are you’ll hear something like, ‘Hello. You’ve reached the operator, please hold.’ All the while, you’re getting slammed with some hefty charges — a per-minute charge on top of an international rate.”
In other words, these work like 976 or 900 numbers would in the United States. Not that I would know anything about those. I swear, dear, I don’t have the slightest idea how that got onto our bill …
According to the FTC, the most common area codes the scams originate from are 268, 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849 and 876.
If in doubt, don’t call. Remember, nobody in real danger is going to call you, they’re going to call the police. If it’s really important, they’ll call you back — or they would have hung on the line in the first place. Using your head could save you a lot of coin.
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