Perspective on the One Ring Scam

By Josh Garrett, CSO & Co-founder, MOBI — February 10, 2014

Recently, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning to businesses and consumers about the “One Ring Scam.” National news media promptly picked up the story to spread the word about this new scam.

There are various versions involving the details and consequences of the scam, but most involve a call from an unrecognized international number (Caribbean or Eastern European). The call is either a few brief rings or an immediate disconnect if you happen to pick up.

The warning states that if you call back, you could be charged a $20-$30 connection fee as well as $9/minute for the duration of the call. Some warnings go as far as to state that this scam can steal your contacts and your personal information.

Old School
This scam has been around for quite some time and is similar to an 809 scam which used faxes, voicemails, emails and other communication means to dupe people into making unknown international charges.

Following some further digging on the “One Ring Scam,” the severity of the damages may not be as bad as the warning states. The website, which tracks all manner of Internet rumor, notes:

"Sprint currently lists its standard rate for placing calls from U.S. cell phones to the countries mentioned in the above example (Belarus and Latvia) at between $2.65 and $2.69 per minute (and as low as $0.41 to $0.43 per minute if the caller subscribes to an international long-distance plan), so a victim who returned such a call and stayed on the line for a couple of minutes before hanging up might realistically be out $5 or so in toll charges. Phone customers can generally get any "premium service" (i.e., "international call fee") charges tacked on to such a call reversed by contacting their phone service providers and documenting the circumstances of the call.”

In addition, there is no way an international phone call could be used to steal data or contacts off your phone. A more likely scenario involves returning the call and speaking with somebody who may try to get that information out of you or your employees.

While this danger may be somewhat overhyped, it is important to always remain vigilant on how employees use their devices. This means implementing, communicating and maintaining a wireless policy that guides employees on their use of the device (such as not returning calls to strange international numbers).

Furthermore, it is important to always check your bill for improper usage or charges. Businesses should make sure they have a proper mobile expense management solution in place to monitor such anamolies. Even the smallest charge can multiply quickly when billed to many devices.


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