CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning citizens to think twice before answering or returning phone calls from foreign or unknown locations.
“We have received reports from citizens who are getting dozens of phone calls a day from international numbers,” Morrisey said in a press release. “Some of these calls may be sweepstakes or lottery scams; while others may be scams to provide medical devices.
"Other calls may be the so-called ‘one-ring scam’ where someone calls a consumer then hangs up after one-ring with the hope the consumer calls back so the scammer can load the consumer’s bill with unintended charges.
"Whatever the scam, we are advising citizens to simply not answer.”
The AG's office says the places where the calls are coming are as varied as the reason for the call. One person reported receiving calls from Bulgaria, Gambia, Portugal, Bangladesh, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Gabon, Moldova, Ghana, Iceland, Ireland and Madagascar, as well as from five different “area codes” that are unassigned to any country, in the span of one weekend.
“Calls also may be coming from domestic area codes,” Morrisey said. “The best advice is to be cautious about answering or returning phone calls from numbers and area codes you don’t recognize.
"If someone calls and doesn’t leave a message, chances are fairly good they didn’t need to reach you that much.”
Morrisey said scammers may take advantage of consumers who return unanswered calls by placing unauthorized charges on the consumers’ bills, a practice known as cramming. Consumers should keep a close eye on their telephone or cell phone bill for these telltale signs of cramming:
- Your bill will include charges for services that are explained on your telephone bill in general terms such as “service fee,” “service charge,” “other fees,” “voicemail,” “mail server,” “calling plan,” “psychic” and “membership;”
- Your bill could include charges that are added to your telephone bill every month without a clear explanation of the services provided – such as a “monthly fee” or “minimum monthly usage fee;” and
- Charges for an authorized service, but you were misled about its actual cost.“Consumers should closely review their cell phone and landline telephone bills each month for potentially fake charges for third-party services,” Morrisey said.
“Crammers will often put small charges on the cell phone bill in the hope that it will go unnoticed by the consumer for a period of time.”