The latest trend in the ever-expanding robocall plague—automated calls that hang up on you after a ring or two. The Federal Communications Commission recently warned that there has been a massive increase in these calls in 2019.
The scam works like this—a computer dials your number but hangs up before you can answer. The scammers are hoping that you hit redial to contact the caller. If you do, you’ll likely reach an automated system that tries to keep you on the line with long holds, automated prompts and similar tactics, resulting in a big charge for a call to an overseas premium-rate number—possibly hundreds of dollars. The scammers get paid by your phone company.
To increase the chance that you will call back, the scammers might use spoofing technology to trick your caller-ID into displaying a local area code or the name of a familiar organization, such as a police department or local utility. Or they might call late at night, when you’re not thinking clearly or perhaps asleep.
Government efforts to stop robocalls have thus far failed. Half of all calls to cell phones will be robocalls by the end of this year, according to one estimate, up from 3.7% in 2017.
What to do: If your phone rings just once or twice, don’t call back unless you recognize the number. Use a robocall-blocking service, such as Nomorobo (free for landlines, $1.99/month for mobile phones, Nomorobo.com), YouMail (free for mobile phones, YouMail.com) or the service offered by your provider—none of these block all robocalls, however.
If you do get scammed, call your phone-service provider and ask to have the charge removed. If the provider refuses, pay your bill with a credit card, then call the credit card company to challenge the charge.