This is one honor Akron doesn’t want.
During a three-day period from May 1 to May 3, Akron’s 330 area code was among the top five in the country that got slammed with what’s called the One-Ring Scam.
It’s a relatively new scam that has been in the news, including warnings from the Federal Communications Commission.
It seems innocent enough. Your phone rings once and stops. No message is left.
The goal is to have you call back, thinking it’s an important call.
But the phone numbers, which look like regular U.S.-based numbers, are actually the equivalent to international 900 numbers so you could get charged by your phone carrier, who then has to pass the money on to the scammers.
The best advice: Don’t answer a call from a number you don’t recognize and don’t return the call.
The scam has been making its way around the country with no particular pattern, except targeting an area code for about three days, said Jim Tyrrell, senior director of product marketing with Transaction Network Services. The company is a hub for landline and wireless phone carriers and also for credit-card machines. It analyzes 1 billion calls per day across more than 500 phone operators, including Sprint and Verizon.
From May 1 to May 3, Akron’s 330 and Dayton’s 937 area codes were among the top five that received the highest number of One-Ring Scam calls. On a typical day, Tyrrell said, Akron’s area code gets only 11 total One-Ring Scams. But during that three-day period, Akron got 6,000 calls a day and Dayton got 5,000 calls. The top number of calls was 65,000 calls a day to the Phoenix area, according to Transaction Network Services.
The scammers sometimes call in the middle of the night or call the same number several times, prompting the person to try to call the number back, he said.
The scam calls that called the Akron area were from Mauritania, a West African country with a 222 area code that seems like it could be from the U.S., said Tyrrell. Other One-Ring calls have come from other countries or regions, such as the British Virgin Islands (284 area code) and Monaco (377), he said.
The idea is if the scammers flood an unsuspecting area code with calls, “they’ll get a certain number of people to call back. It’s dialing for dollars, if you will,” he said.
Scammers are constantly changing their tactics to get unsuspecting people to fall for their scam and share financial or sensitive information, Tyrrell said.
“The bad actors just continually change. It’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole," he said.
Tyrrell said there may be some limited relief coming with pressure on the FCC and with lawmakers looking at requiring authentication processes be put in place by the big telecom companies to stop some of these scam calls. However, the pressure now is only on the large companies, which could mean scammers would move to other networks to make their calls, Tyrrell said.
In the meantime, here are some tips from Tyrrell and the FCC to protect yourself against the One-Ring Scam. The tips also are good to protect yourself from any phone scam.
• Don’t call back if you don’t know the number.
• Don’t answer a call from an unknown number.
• Never give any personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller.
• If you have no need to make international phone calls, ask your landline or cell carrier to block them.
• Consider apps or services from your carriers to filter potential scam calls. Some offer free or paid services.
Let’s make sure to cover some of the oldies and some new ones.
The IRS, local sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies don’t call you directly saying that you owe money or there’s a warrant out for your arrest.
Microsoft also doesn’t call to tell you that there’s a problem with your computer. Scammers often will pretend to be other large familiar companies.
A newer one that a reader alerted me to was a call that supposedly came from Spectrum. She almost fell for it only because she had recently switched to Spectrum and thought they were calling to confirm her service. The scammer asked her to verify her security questions, likely to try to gain access to her online account.
Spectrum spokesman Bill Morand confirmed that Spectrum representatives already have access to the customer’s account if the representatives are legitimate.
Another new one making its way around the country and in some forms in Ohio is a variation of the Grandparent Scam, where a grandparent gets a phone call from someone who claims to be a grandchild who is in legal trouble and needs immediate help, according to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker.
A new one is somehow spoofing or hacking into records so parents receive a call that appears to come from their child's number, said Akron BBB President Christy Page. The caller says the child has been kidnapped and demands a ransom.
According to the FBI, try to contact your loved one via another phone, do not name your loved one in the call and ask to speak to your loved one directly or ask questions only your loved one would know. Then contact your local police or FBI.
Also be careful after the death of a loved one as some scammers will take published obituary information and call the surviving spouse or family member to claim the deceased person has debt unbeknownst to the family. A friend told me she received a call after her father died and when she pushed back, the caller said perhaps her father had an affair the family didn’t know about.
Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher.