Action 9: BBB warns of ‘one-ring' scheme affecting cellphone users

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Eyewitness News uncovered a new scam that can make you a victim with the press of one button on a cellphone.
 
The con just popped up in the Charlotte area and the number of people being targeted is exploding.
 
Several Channel 9 employees and even the head of the Better Business Bureau have been targeted.
 
Here's how it works.
 
The con artists call a cellphone and let it ring once and hang up. Once you call back, you get charged the minute you do.
 
The BBB said it tends to trap young people. They see a missed call, but no voicemail and then call back.
 
“If it’s from Charlotte or something, I might answer it,” said student Casey Robinson. “Or I might it back because I have doctors and stuff in Charlotte.”
 
The BBB said the call actually costs money.
 
“Somebody just says, ‘Oh I missed a call,’ hits redial,” said Tom Bartholomy. “Call them back and it ends up being an automatic $19.95 access charge as soon as they answer that phone.”
 
The $19.95 is just the first minute. Then it’s $9 for every minute after. Apparently, what you hear are music and ads designed to keep a caller on the line as long as possible and waiting for a human to pick up.
 
The number also looks legit. It’s a 10-digit number like a U.S. number with area codes like 809, 876, 284 and 473. The area codes are associated with the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands and Grenada.
 
Weeks can go by before customers get the bill and even then customers may not notice the charge because it’s small enough it may blend in.
 
That’s why some college students are even more glad they don’t return any call they don’t recognize it.
 
“No, I just delete it,” said student Marquez Bittle. “I don’t want contact.”
 
Experts said the one-ring scam is just one version of what federal agencies like the FTC and FCC call “cramming,” where someone charges the cell without the customer knowing and possibly not noticing.
 
In most cases, the phone companies will work with customers to remove the charge.