'One ring' scam could cost consumers, BBB says

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The phone rings once and disconnects. It's from a number you don't recognize, so you call it back. But, it's an international number.{}

That call could cost a lot of money.

The Better Business Bureau is warning cell phone users about a new scam that can lead to lots of international charges on a person's cell phone bill.

It's called the "One Ring" scam because the scammers program computers to send thousands of calls to random cell phone numbers, ring once and then disconnect. The scammers prey on the people who are curious enough to return the call.{}

"As of yet, we have not had any complaints filed but given how rapidly this scam is spreading and growing across the country, our opinion is it won't be long." said Vee Daniel, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Upstate South Carolina.

When the cell phone owner returns the call, they are charged $19.95 for the international call fee. After that, customers are charged $9.00 for each additional minute.

"If you make an overseas call or an international call, you're going to end up paying for it," said Darryl Gregory, a cellular sales consultant.

Victims have told BBB that the calls appear to come from Caribbean nations including Grenada, Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or the British Virgin Islands. Area codes for the calls include 268, 274, 473, 809 and 876. However, some calls may be domestic.

The scammers could work for phone companies on those islands, said Gregory.

"They're getting paid for that. So if it's a call to Barbados, they can receive income," he said.

The phone companies profit when people call back even though the numbers may look domestic.

"A lot of those countries - they still use the '1' as a country code, so it looks like it's an American number," said Juliana Harris with the S.C. Dept. of Consumer Affairs.

Experts said your cell phone carrier would probably not void the charges.

"To be as safe as possible the best thing to do if your phone rings and it's an international number you don't recognize, don't answer and don't call back," said Daniel.

BBB advises consumers to take note of the phone number the calls come from and notify their cell phone carriers immediately if they believe they have been victims of the scam. By documenting the fraud, consumers may have a better chance of getting the charges removed.{}

If you are a victim of the scam, the Department of Consumer Affairs asks that you call their hotline number at 1-800-922-1594.