Clark Howard: A new phone scam is calling

I need to tell you about a hot scam that was around years ago and has roared back. It’s called the “one ring scam.”

You hear your phone ring and you go to answer it — and the line’s dead. So you think, “Oh, I missed the call,” and you have it re-dial that last number. Big mistake.

You may not know this, but there are several parts outside the United States, particularly in the Caribbean, that use our area code system. So when you re-dial, you’re making a call outside the United States that might cost you $30 just for the call connecting. It’s a big, fat scam where the money is taken by the individual, split with usually a corrupt government official wherever you’ve called, and your money is just flat-out gone because you placed the call.

Here’s my rule: Never ever, ever re-dial a call like that unless you know who’s calling you.

Some of the most popular area codes to watch out for include 473, 809, 876, 284 and 268, though there are others too, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The key thing to know is, when an unfamiliar number comes in, you’re better off waiting for a voicemail to determine if you have a legitimate caller before calling it back. You can also Google the phone number itself. If the number is a scam, chances are good that others will have posted warnings about it.

Finally, how can you tell if further phony charges are being crammed onto your cell bill? Look for innocuous terms like “special services,” “Internet advertising,” “service fee,” “calling plan” or “minimum monthly usage fee.” A typical cram charge for a business might be $10 or $15. For a consumer, it will be more like $5 or $10.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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