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Cyber crime

Beware the one ring scam: how to protect yourself from phone fraud

Shanna Hall
4 Min
Phone ringing as scammer calls

You may have heard of “one ring” in a very different context, but the one ring scam is something you’ve probably already experienced: an unknown number ringing once and hanging up. Especially if you’re expecting a call, using your phone for work, or otherwise likely to return mysterious missed calls, you might have called the number back.

So what’s the big deal? Unfortunately, it may have been a scammer attempting to lure you into that very action.

This article will dissect the one ring scam and why it’s a risk.

Defining the “one ring” scam

The “one ring” phone scam is an attempt to trick you into calling back a fraudster’s number, which results in international call fees. In the “one ring” scam, you will receive a call from an unfamiliar number, with your phone only ringing once.

Preying on people’s curiosity, many individuals will return the phone call, which results in long-distance fees. This type of scam dates back to 2014, when the Better Business Bureau in the US issued a fraud alert.

Scammers will try a variety of tricks to get you to return the phone number, such as using a familiar area code or leaving an urgent voicemail. Victims often fall for these tactics, resulting in unexpected charges on their phone bills and leaked personal information.

How to identify the one ring scam

Recognizing phone scams is important to prevent unauthorized charges, hacked accounts, and long distance fees on your phone bill. For one, if you are receiving a call from an unfamiliar area code, do not pick up. If the person trying to reach you is legit, they will leave a voicemail.

Another way to avoid this scam is to only make outgoing international calls to recognized numbers. Do not return a call from an unfamiliar number that doesn’t leave a voicemail, especially if there is only one phone ring. And consider encouraging your coworkers, family and friends to leave you a text message if they’re trying to reach you.

Moreover, if you receive a phone call or voicemail claiming to be someone you know but from an unrecognized number, do not call back the number. Instead, find the phone number you have in your contacts for that person and try to reach them.

Furthermore, scammers can manipulate caller ID and phone number information. Your phone might say you are receiving a phone call from someone you know, but if the phone number doesn’t match, it’s probably a scammer. Not answering is especially important if your phone provider marks the call as a scam, but the number seems familiar.

Consequences: The dangers of falling for the “one ring” scam

The “one ring” scam can have serious consequences. For one, outgoing international calls can incur long distance fees, which can be costly. Even if the phone call is just a few minutes, it can cost you a lot of money.

The financial implications expand if you share personal information with scammers, like your bank account numbers and identifying information, such as your Social Security number and address. Many people have lost savings, retirement funds, and their identity due to answering suspicious calls and giving out personal information.

Additionally, falling for the “one ring” scam can open the door for other harassment and scam calls. Once scammers know they’ve reached someone that they can extract information from, they will continue to call you from unfamiliar numbers.

Safety: Tips to protect yourself from the “one ring” scam

Especially with the number of scam calls increasing in recent years, it’s important to implement procedures to protect yourself from the “one ring” scam. For one, do not answer calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize. These are most likely scam calls looking to extract sensitive information and incur international phone charges.

In addition, there are software programs and apps that can block scam calls. This can prevent you from trying to decipher which calls are legit and which ones are scams. Even if you don’t have an external program, many phone service providers already have features in place that alert you if the call is a potential scammer.

If you do give out personal information before realizing the call is a scam, it’s important to alert the proper authorities to prevent the scammers from contacting other people. In many cases, the number can be disabled or the authorities can trace the call back to the source. If you recognize the call as a scam and don’t give out personal information, it’s still important to alert the authorities so they can warn other vulnerable people.

In summary

  • The “one ring” phone scam occurs when an international number calls your phone and hangs up after one ring. Calling the number back can result in international fees on your phone bill.
  • Only answering calls from numbers in your contact list and using scam call-blocking software are great ways to reduce your risk of phone scams.
  • Alert the authorities if you’ve given out identifying information or believe the number that’s calling you is a scammer.

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