What You Should Know About The ‘One-Ring’ Phone Scam

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Illegal robocallers have a new trick: Calling your phone and quickly hanging up, which they hope will prompt your curiosity and cause you to call the number back. Federal telecommunications regulators are warning that when you do place the return call, you may be connected to a 900 number that charges hefty by-the-minute fees. Or you may be calling an international number, which could tack additional charges onto your phone bill.

The Federal Trade Commission is warning people about this latest fraudulent antic, calling it the “one-ring scam.” Officials suggest that you do not call back unrecognized numbers to avoid being scammed.

Getty Images | Justin Sullivan
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

These one-ring calls may appear to be from phone numbers in the United States because there are several three-digit country codes that resemble U.S. area codes. For example, the FTC warns, “809” goes to the Dominican Republic and “649” dials the Turks and Caicos. Also, savvy scammers use spoofing techniques that falsify information sent to your caller ID. For example, a number may be changed to look like one similar to your own to increase the likelihood that you’ll pick up or call it back.


CBS News reports that residents in Arizona and New York have recently been targeted by the scam, and the latest robocalls have used a 222 area code, which is for the West African nation of Mauritania.

A variation of the “one-call” scam is to leave a deceptive voicemail message urging you to call back the number to either collect a prize or get information about a sick relative, according to the FTC.

Tips On How To Avoid The Scam

The Federal Trade Commission offers these tips on keeping yourself safe from phone scammers using the “one-ring” scam:

  • Don’t answer or return any calls from numbers you don’t recognize
  • Before calling unfamiliar numbers, do a Google search to see if the area code is international
  • If you do not regularly make international calls, ask your phone company to block outgoing international calls on your line
  • Always be cautious, even if a number appears authentic

Also, be sure to take a close look at your phone bill each month. If you are billed for a call you believe resulted from a scam, first try to resolve the issue with your phone company. If you can’t come to a resolution, though, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

About the Author

Brittany Anas

Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure. I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more. Learn More.