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SCAM ALERT

'One-ring' cellphone scam can ding your wallet

By Colleen Tressler, consumer education specialist with the Federal Trade Commission

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[February 26, 2014]  WASHINGTON Who's calling now? That number doesn't ring a bell. Hold the phone, says the Federal Trade Commission. You could be a potential victim of the growing "one-ring" cellphone scam.

Here's how it works: Scammers are using auto-dialers to call cellphone numbers across the country. Scammers let the phone ring once just enough for a missed-call message to pop up.

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. 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.

The calls are from phone numbers with three-digit area codes that look like they're from inside the U.S. but actually are associated with international phone numbers often in the Caribbean. The area codes include 268, 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849 and 876.

If you get a call like this, don't pick it up and don't call the number back. There's no danger in getting the call; the danger is in calling back and racking up a whopping bill.

If you're tempted to call back, do yourself a favor and check the number through online directories first. They can tell you where the phone number is registered.

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If you've been a victim of the "one-ring" scam, try to resolve the charges with your cellphone carrier. If that doesn't work, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communicmations Commission.

And as a general rule: Read your phone bill often line by line. If you don't recognize or understand a charge, contact your carrier.

I've got to go now; my cellphone is ringing.

[By COLLEEN TRESSLER, Federal Trade Commission]

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