CONSUMER ALERT: One Ring Scam

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Sometimes when scammers call, they don’t want you to answer the phone. Instead, they want you to call back.

The “one ring” scam is when scammers call you from an international number, hang up after letting it ring once, and hope that you call them back so that you will be charged long distance fees. To increase the likelihood that you call back, scammers will call from numbers that seem to have U.S. area codes or use “spoofing” techniques that further mask the number’s origin on your Caller ID. Once you call back, the scammer will put you on hold or try to keep you on the line for as long as possible to rack up per minute fees.

It’s clear that law enforcement must keep pace with savvy scammers. As part of that effort, AG Racine joined a bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to crack down on robocalls (a call that uses an automated dialer to deliver a pre-recorded message). And recently, the FCC proposed granting phone carriers clearer powers to block these suspected scam calls. This move is a step in the right direction, but consumers must remain vigilant.

How to avoid the one-ring scam:

  • If you don’t recognize a phone number, don’t answer and don’t return the call.
  • If you’re worried the call might be legitimate, check to see if the missed call has an international area code.
  • If you do decide to return a call and are immediately put on hold, hang up.
  • If you do not make international calls, ask your phone company to block outgoing international calls on your line.

The one ring scam is just one technique telemarketing scammers use to lure consumers into costly callbacks. In March 2019 alone, there were 5.5 billion robocalls made to U.S. households.

How to reduce the number of robocalls you receive:

  1. Register on the national “Do Not Call” list. While the national Do Not Call list is not a foolproof safeguard against robocallers, it is still a good first line of defense to protect yourself. You can call 888-382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov to register your phone number.
  1. Use a blocking service. Telephone service providers offer blocking smartphone apps and services that may be used to block unwanted calls.
  1. Think twice before sharing your phone number. Each time you share your number with a sign-up list, there is an increased likelihood that either the recipient will call you or will sell your number to another telemarketer. 
  1. Submit a complaint: Submit a complaint to OAG by calling (202) 442-9828 or emailing consumer.protection@dc.gov. You may also submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission by calling (877) 832-4357 or visiting www.ftc.gov. Your complaints help us keep track of illegal and unwanted robocalls.

OAG works to educate the public about their rights regarding robocalls, responds to individual consumer complaints, and takes appropriate enforcement action when possible. Learn more about your rights and how to avoid telemarketing scams.