It’s a call from the Caribbean you don’t want to get.
A new phone scam is sweeping the United States, and victims can be charged for just answering their phones, warn the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
In the most popular scam, a mobile phone rings once. The call shows up as being placed in the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284), Grenada (473) or even Antigua or Barbados.
The scammers count on recipients returning phone calls out of curiosity or habit. Then the call goes to an expensive, international hotline or adult entertainment line, and consumers are being charged up to $19.95 in connection fees, plus per minute charges, said Danielle Rudd, the communications director for the BBB serving Northwest Florida.
The call may show up on monthly statements as “premium services” charges. Even just answering the call can get consumers stuck with unwanted charges, Rudd warned.
The Federal Trade Commission calls the tactic “cramming”—and it’s illegal. Unfortunately, the companies breaking the law are outside the United States, so all the BBB can do is caution people from answering international calls from numbers they’re not familiar with.
"Just be very careful,” Rudd said. “If it's a number you don't recognize, wait and see if they leave a voicemail. There are so many reports of this going on across the States right now."
Rudd’s office hadn’t had any calls reported from the local area, but "just because they're not reported doesn't mean they're not happening."
The Press Gazette was aware of at least three calls to local mobile numbers placed from Antigua at time of printing. The call rang once and disconnected.
Got a call? Called the number back? Rudd said consumers who think they’ve been victimized in the scam can take several steps.
"If they're going unreported, cases can't be built to track them down," she said.
First, report the call to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their complaints process. For more information on filing a complaint with the FTC, go to http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0341-file-complaint-ftc#How.
Second, put all phone numbers on the national “do not call” list.
Finally, consumers should call their telephone provider if they returned the call.
The best thing consumers can do is report the calls to the FTC, Rudd said.