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One-ring phone scam is spreading

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Updated: 2/06 12:39 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News is learning more about a con that continues to target local cellphone users.

The "one-ring" scam," or "wangiri," originated in Japan, but was shut down by authorities. It since made its home in the Caribbean Islands, targeting cellphone users across all networks.

Cellphone users receive calls from what appears to be a long-distance number, but on the other end of the line is a robocalling computer.

"I saw the call coming in but I saw it late," said Jeanne Miller of the call she received Sunday night.

Action News was the first local station to warn you about this hoax, and Miller saw that story, but was still tempted to return the call.

"I don't know anyone in Antigua, but I thought maybe it's someone in trouble --  family or a friend," she said.

But answering that call would have cost her $9 on her next bill. The calls usually only rings once and then disconnects, tempting recipients to call back. Doing that would cost $19.95 in international calling fees, plus another $9 a minute to simply sit on hold and listen to music or advertisements.

Since the Action News story aired, hundreds of viewers have called and emailed our station, reporting they have also been targeted in recent days.

"Customers were coming into us the next day saying 'I got that call, I got that call'," said Carla Aldridge, owner of CPR Cell Phone Repair in Jacksonville, who was part of our original story. Aldridge answered the call before we warned her about the scam.

Now she says her customers are asking what cellphone companies are doing, because those computers keep changing the numbers so the calls can't be blocked.

We called major carriers to find out, and so far they're only warning their customers.

AT&T executives sent us this information: "AT&T does have a web site that provides safety tips for consumers to help them recognize and avoid falling victim to scams."
http://www.att.net/smartcontrols-809AreaCode
http://www.att.net/smartcontrols-IncreaseSafety

Verizon responded with these tips:
"To protect yourself, do not return a call to an area code you don't know.
You can always check the location of unfamiliar area codes by going to the NANPA (North American Numbering Plan Administration) website or by conducting a simple Google search of the suspect area code and viewing the top result.
If you get persistent calls from the same number, you can block it at no charge through your My Verizon webpage.
Don't answer or return calls from unknown or unfamiliar numbers, especially with area codes you don't recognize.
Use voicemail to filter calls and return those that need to be returned.
Keep an eye on your bill each month and report any suspicious activity."

T-Mobile executives provided their customers with this advice:
"We caution all consumers to be wary of potential scams and only to call numbers they are familiar with, or have received from a trusted source. We also advise customers to closely review their bills, and if there is any concern that there may have been fraudulent activity, call customer service and we will look into it."

Sprint did not respond to our request for information.

"I guess it's buyer beware, unfortunately," said Miller. "You'd think there would be enough outcry that the phone companies would provide more information on how they plan to handle the potential charges."

"We are watching our bill every single day," said Aldridge. "I'm not too worried at this point, I think the phone companies will do the right thing, but I will be much more careful from here on out and second guess every unknown call."

Personal security advisors recommend closely reviewing any charges on your next bill that claim to be special services, Internet advertising, service fee, calling plan, or a minimum monthly usage fee.
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