Woodward, Okla. —
No one likes extra charges on their phone bill.
Especially if those charges come as the result of a scam that is now popping up around the country.
The scam is known as a “ring and run” because victims receive a call from a suspicious number, which only rings once and disconnects. That's because the scammers want you to call back.
However, several organizations ranging from the Oklahoma Bankers Association (OBA) to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are warning people not to return the call. They say this is one situation where satisfying your curiosity could leave you facing some hefty fees.
According to the BBB, these suspicious calls are coming from international paid adult entertainment services, “chat” lines or other premium service. And if you dial the number back, you can be saddled with expensive fees including $20 just for making an international call in addition to per minute service charges which can range up to $9 per minute.
An OBA press release identifies a number of international area codes that have been tied to the scam, as well as the countries from where the calls actually originated, including:
473 – Grenada
268 – Antigua or Barbuda
809 – Dominican Republic
876 – Jamaica
284 – British Virgin Islands
649 – Turks and Caicos
Persons receiving a suspicious call from an unknown number are asked to research the number before returning the call.
“If the call is important, the caller is going to leave a voice mail,” OBA Vice President of Fraud Elaine Dodd said in a press release. “A missed call without a voice message tends to be a wrong number. If it is a missed call from someone you know, their name and number should be in your phone already to identify the call. If it important, they’ll leave a message, continue to call or even text you.
“You should never return a call to a number you aren’t familiar with. If you are tempted to return the phone call, at least do an online search for the number before you call and see what you come up with,” Dodd said.
Kristin Ewing, member and public relations coordinator for the OBA, said the banking organization became aware of the issue after the wife of one of the OBA board members became a target of the scam herself.
“His wife started receiving these strange calls. And then when they were recently in Kansas City they heard about the scam on the news there, so when they came back they shared it with us,” Ewing said.
Similar news reports have also gone out in other states across the nation from Pennsylvania to Florida to Alaska. The BBB has reported that the scammers are likely using automatic dialing technology to call thousands of different cell phones as they troll for more victims.
While the scam “is not a direct banking issue,” she said the OBA was still interested in helping to warn people about the ring and run because “we like to stay on top of things for Oklahomans.”
“We felt it was something that Oklahomas needed to know about to help protect them from these crazy charges,” she said. “So we did a quick scan to see if anyone else had started to put the word out in Oklahoma and when we didn't find anything here, we decided we should send out a release.”
Ewing said wanting to warn people about the scam is just a part of the OBA's mission to help support its membership of community banks, which in turn support the people in their communities.
“It's about caring about the communities we live in,” she said.