PHONY FADS: ‘One-ring’ scam calls spike in Arapahoe County, DA’s office says

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AURORA | One ring could bring a big ding to your wallet, according to a new fraud advisory issued by the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The number of scam calls being dialed to area phones has spiked in recent months thanks in part to a re-vamped scheme intended to bilk unsuspecting residents.

There has been “a sudden spike” in the number of so-called “one-ring” calls to local land lines and cell phones, according to a July fraud alert issued by the local DA’s office.

Popularized several years ago, the scam often involves several short calls placed from the same number, ringing only once, over a short time frame. 

Curious residents then call the number back, only to be put on hold with an international operator, according to Barbara Martin-Worley, director of consumer fraud protection with the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Those people who call the unknown number back are then slapped with an international connection charge — typically between $35 and $40 — and additional per-minute fees. The callers typically don’t know they’ve been scammed until they see the charge — often labelled as premium service, international call or toll call — on their phone bill at the end of the month.

The fees can typically be refunded if residents report the charges to their carrier, according to Martin-Worley. 

She said scammers often use three-digit area codes to mimic locales across the U.S. 

The swindlers have been based in Sierra Leon, the Balkan nations and the Dominican Republic, according to Martin-Worley.

“We didn’t hear anything about this scam for a while, and now it seems to be back in vogue and coming to the U.S.,” she said.

The Federal Communications Commission issued a consumer alert on the scam in May, saying the scheme had been particularly prevalent in Arizona and New York. Many of the calls were coming from the West African county of Mauritania using country code 222.

Martin-Worley said the one-call scam has since made its way to Colorado.

“Certain states were targeted in the spring and Colorado wasn’t one of them,” she said. “And now I’m afraid that we are.”

She said fraudsters are using advanced auto-dialing technology to call thousands of residents per minute.

Martin-Worley encouraged people who believe they have been targeted by one-call scammers to report the charges to their phone carrier and the FCC at FCC.gov/complaints.