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FCC robocall warning: What to do if a “one ring” scammer calls your phone

FCC robocall warning: What to do if a “one ring” scammer calls your phone
[Photo: Hassan OUAJBIR/Unsplash]

Someone in Sierra Leone has been blowing up my phone all weekend, ringing once, and hanging up—and I’m not alone.

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The FCC has issued a warning about so-called one-ring robocalls, a scam that doesn’t require the receiver of the call to pick up the phone, but to call back. According to the FCC, the way the scam works is this: Your phone rings once, you think you have missed a call, so you call the number back. The number might lead to a mysterious recording and as you listen, your phone bill ticks up.

In the scam, which is also known as a wangiri scam (Japanese for “one ring and cut”), the person on the receiving end is tricked into connecting to a phone number outside the U.S., or occasionally via a phone spoofer that makes it look like a U.S. number, but really is from some distant land. By calling back, or answering, 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.

The FCC notes that variations on the scam include a voicemail requesting a call to “collect a prize” or offering vague details about “sick relative” and asking for a callback.

The FCC said the recent spate of calls use the 222 country code, which belongs to the West African nation of Mauritania, and were reported to be widespread in New York State and Arizona. This is not the first time one-ring robocalls have surged in the United States. Another wave hit three years ago; in that case, calls came from area codes connecting callers to the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, and Jamaica.

These one-call scammers are not the only ones making robocalls these days as the practice is on the rise. In April, Americans received 4.9 billion robocalls, or 163 million calls per day, according to YouMail, a robocall blocking service.

The FCC is warning people about it because customers have few options for curtailing the obnoxious, costly practice. If you are on the receiving end of a one-ring call:

  • File a complaint with the FTC.
  • If you do get swept up in it and are billed for a long distance call, try to resolve the matter with your telephone company.
  • If your phone company is unwilling or unable to resolve it, you can file a complaint with the FCC at no cost.
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