Better Business Bureau officials in Minnesota and North Dakota are warning people about a thriving phone scam, FOX 9 reports.
The fraud typically involves a scam company using a computer to call random cell phones with what looks like a 473 area code – and promptly hanging up after one ring. Officials warn that 473 is an international code for Granada, and curious cell phone users who call back can very quickly ring up big international-call bills. Charges can amount to $19.95 for an international call and $9 per minute after you answer, Consumerist reports, noting that officials fear the scam is fast spreading across the country.
The scam is a new version of old "ring and run" frauds, and it utilizes a common tactic called cramming, in which a third-party company adds unauthorized or deceptive charges to your bill without you being aware of it.
As the Federal Trade Commission notes, mobile phone carriers allow third parties to place charges on your phone bill (often it is fairly small-ticket items like ring tones that might go unnoticed by a consumer), so you can end up with charges from random companies on your bill.
In this case, the charges are for long distance calls you never would have made or accepted if you had known the source. But you get billed anyway.
Officials say there's a simple way to beat this scam: Don't answer and don't call back.
Forbes reports that there are other international area codes to watch out for that have been used in similar scams: 809, 284, 649 and 876.
The Better Business Bureau recently released its list of top scams of 2013.
Here's a short video on cramming from the FTC: