Calling back unrecognized phone numbers can be very expensive

Local reader EB Wilson used to forward all phone calls to her cell phone without really looking at the phone number or thinking about it.

But she’s changing that habit after receiving a startling Verizon bill of around $750 for a call she inadvertently returned to India — and which Verizon says lasted 207 minutes.

His experience is also a good warning to beware of the one ring scam, which I wrote about many years ago. At the time, consumer advocates weren’t entirely sure what the trap could be of someone receiving a ringing call on their phone with no answer or with a strange “can you hear me” . Some have wondered if scammers are recording people saying “yes” to trick them in some way.

Continued:Betty Lin-Fisher: Pay Attention to “Do You Hear Me” Calls and How You Respond

Wilson, 77, explained it this way when she contacted me in late February:

“About a month ago my Verizon cell phone rang and I just answered without looking at the number – and no one was there. My routine is just to press a reminder because I often can’t go fast enough to answer. No one answered, so I hung up and looked at the number and it was 12 digits, not nine. I didn’t know that meant outside of the United States,”

Wilson said there was no way she was on the phone with India for 207 minutes, as she remembers hanging up on the empty phone and calling a local Italian restaurant right after to order takeout .

“I never thought about it again until I got a phone bill over $700, which is in dispute with Discover,” Wilson said.

Wilson shared a copy of his January Verizon bill, which showed the 207-minute call to a 12-digit number, as well as other local phone calls as well during the same period.

When I contacted Verizon, spokesman Andrew Testa said it was likely Wilson’s call was part of what’s called the Wangiri scam.

Wangiri is a Japanese word meaning “one (ring) and cut,” Testa said. “It’s a phone scam technique where your phone rings once and then stops, hoping you’ll call the number back. If you call back, it goes to a high-cost international number, which means you you’ll be charged for that call, and the scammer will make money.

Federal Trade Commission Warning

The Federal Trade Commission has also warned about these single ring scams.

“For illegal calling bots, the goal isn’t always to get you to answer. Sometimes it makes you call

“One-ring calls may appear to come from phone numbers somewhere in the United States, including three initial digits that look like US area codes. But savvy scammers often use international numbers from areas that also start with codes three digits – for example, “232” goes to Sierra Leone and “809” goes to the Dominican Republic Scammers can also use spoofing techniques to further obscure the number on your identification display of the caller,” the FTC said, referring to the fake numbers.

The FTC said if you call back, you may be connected to a phone number outside the United States

“As a result, you could be charged connection fees, as well as hefty per-minute charges for as long as they can keep you on the phone. These charges may appear on your bill as premium services, international calls, or calls paid,” the FTC said.

Variations of this scam rely on fake voicemail messages prompting you to call a number with an unknown area code to “schedule a delivery” or notify you of a “sick” relative, the FTC said.

Verizon Response

Testa said Verizon is “working to protect our customers from scam calls from Wangiri, but some calls go through while Verizon’s analytics detect the fraud campaign and work to put call blocks in place. Verizon won’t let you know. will not charge for calls to numbers identified by Wangiri.

He offered these tips to Verizon customers, which were also similar to those offered by the FTC; most of the advice could also apply to other mobile phone providers:

  • Enable “International Blocking” in the Call Filter app if you normally don’t receive international calls (this will block all international calls, even those you want to receive).
  • Don’t call back unknown numbers or numbers that don’t appear to be a 10-digit US number.
  • If you call back and hear a suspicious message, hang up immediately. The longer you stay on the phone, the more you are charged.
  • Report the phone number as a scammer through the Call Filter app or on VoiceSpamFeedback.com.

It took Wilson a bit of time – and many calls first to Verizon and Discover, then emails with me back and forth to Testa, who instructed Verizon’s customer service reps to call Wilson – but eventually it turned out that Verizon had credited his bill and his Discover account also looked OK.

Testa also said Verizon investigated the 207-minute call that was connected to Wilson’s bill, although it said it hung up immediately after returning the call.

“We investigated the issue and found that the extended international call was a mistake. We worked with Ms. Wilson to resolve the issue to her satisfaction and helped add international call blocking to her account,” it said. -he declares.

new habit

Wilson said she learned a hard lesson and was grateful that she was not responsible for the charges.

“I regularly get nuisance calls on my landline, people claiming to be from an official place to get my credit card number, surveys, lawyers, etc. I don’t get many calls on the cell phone that I don’t know the caller. That’s why when my phone rang while I was moving things around the garage, I couldn’t answer quickly enough, but quickly redialed without looking. I got no answer and hung up and looked at the number. I saw about 12 or 13 digits on the number but didn’t know what it meant at the time.

“I won’t do that again. Verizon was kind enough to block calls out of the country for my phone. I don’t know anyone outside the country. My new practice will be not to answer a call whose number I do not recognize. Check if he left a voice message, otherwise, no call back. Since it started, the last month has been frustrating and stressful,” she said.

Beacon Journal reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ.

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