NEW YORK (MainStreet) Scammers are phoning it in. A "one ring" phone call scam is spreading across the nation, and curious call recipients are paying the price. It's an easy hustle that works like this: your cell phone rings -- just once -- and displays a number you are unfamiliar with. Curious as to who's on the line, you call back. You're quickly connected to a paid chat line or some other "premium" service that is instantly billed to your cell phone.
It's an out of the country call, so not only do you get charged for an international call, but you'll see a fee ranging from $9.99 to $19.99 on your next bill. The charges can be easy to overlook and may be labeled as "Min. Use Fee," "Activation," "Member Fee," or "Subscription."
Many times they will be found in the "Miscellaneous" fees or "Third Party" charges section of your statement.
The practice of putting unauthorized charges on phone bills is called "cramming," and the most recent calls sweeping the nation have originated from out of the country area codes, such as the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284) and Grenada (473), according to the Better Business Bureau.
The Federal Trade Commission says cramming can be initiated in several ways -- not just from "one-ring scams." The FTC advises consumers to be on the watch for unsolicited text messages and to avoid entering your phone number on unsecured websites.
Some mobile phone providers offer third-party charge blocking services for free.
Your phone number is valuable to fraudsters, and another phone-related scam has resurfaced recently, according to the BBB. You will receive a call from someone claiming to be from the FTC's National Do Not Call Registry offering to register your phone number.
Some scammers will ask for personal information, such as your name, address and Social Security number. Others try to charge a fee to join the registry. Of course, the Do Not Call Registry is a free service of the federal government. While private businesses cannot register phone numbers, consumers can sign up directly through the national website but not through private companies. And do not call registrations never expire.