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Mysterious phone calls scamming cell phone users

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Updated: 1/31 9:48 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A new con is targeting cell phone users who do nothing but use their phones the way they're intended.

The Better Business Bureau issued an alert Thursday to users of any kind of cell phone under any carrier.

The scam starts when users receive a call from a number they don't recognize.

"There was no static, no fuzz, no anything, so I just hung up," said Carla Aldridge of the call from Antigua / Barbuda that she answered Thursday morning.

Aldridge owns CPR Cell Phone Repair in Jacksonville, and is always cautious of scams in the industry, but even this one got by her. Now, she owes her cell phone company $9.

"Nine dollars just for answering my phone?"

Aldridge is one of dozens of cell phone users Action News easily located, who were also targets over the past two days. Each received calls from somewhere in the Caribbean like Antigua, Grenada, Jamaica or the British Virgin Islands, where a computer calls random numbers and quickly hangs up if you don’t answer.

"A certain percentage of people are going to automatically call back that number," says Tom Stephens, President of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida and the Southeast Atlantic.

Stephens says victims who call those numbers back, could see a $19.95 international call connection fee, plus $9 dollars for every minute they're on hold.

"They never get a real, live person. They just get music on hold or an advertisement."

For example, a three minute call could cost victims nearly $50.

But not calling back, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Even answering these calls, like Aldridge did, will cost $9.

"I get phone calls all the time from numbers I don't know," says Aldridge. "I'm a business owner with customers all over. I don't want to lose my customers, but how do you know to answer or not? I'm not sure."

Aldridge and her husband are now closely monitoring their cell phone bill to try and avoid that fee that she never meant to rack up.

"We're going to watch it every day, go online every day, and if the $9 charge is on there, it needs to be taken off."

Because Aldridge did not call return the call, she may have an easier time fighting the fee than someone who does. Stephens says carriers may argue that customers should have researched the number before calling back.

If you believe you are a victim, Stephens advises you to document the call now with your carrier, rather than waiting for next month's bill.
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