My telecom company has been sending constantly sending me messages, warning me about those missed calls from unknown numbers from abroad. Especially numbers starting from the US, UK and Pakistan. Now, a new message reads that I should not take any calls or reply back to any numbers which begin with +234 and +372. Though incoming calls are free, receiving calls from any number should not be of concern, right? Wrong! Taking that call could make you shell out a lot of money, and the worst part is that you will only know it when you get your bill at the end of the month.
So what are these calls? Where are they coming from? Why do they cut off in a single ring or two? And what do they gain? The answers are not so easy for the common man, but are super simple for the scamsters. These numbers are from abroad and are registered with a few people who are out there to cheat you.
If you receive a call from an unknown number, especially from +234 and +372, these are numbers from far off countries such as Nigeria and Estonia. Calls made to these numbers can cost you anywhere between Rs 350 to Rs 400 per minute. These are trunk calls and even if you receive a call, they are charged to your telecom bill.
When you receive a call from these numbers, the scamster is waiting for you on the other end only to announce that either you have won a lottery or one of your relatives is injured. The longer you chat with them asking for details, the higher the charges. If the scamster is lucky, he can trick you into giving your bank details and other information. If you are unlucky enough, it could be trick to make you call back a phone sex number, which will empty your wallet even faster.
Most times, you will receive a missed call with a single ring or two. These are usually their tricks to get you to call back on the same number. These numbers are premium-rate numbers (IPRN). Premium-rate numbers are typically known as toll numbers and their origin can be traced to several European countries. Telecom operators offer a limited number of premium numbers which are acquired by businesses. Callers are charged premium rates (higher than regular calling rates) when they dial such numbers and the revenue earned is then shared between the telecom operator and the owner of the number.
The missed call scam is also known as Wangiri scam, which originated from Japan around a decade ago. Wangiri means 'one ring and cut'.
How a Wangiri scam works?
Once an attacker has acquired a premium-rate number he gives missed calls to thousands of cellphone numbers chosen randomly. Inadvertently, an unsuspecting victim calls the number back. An individual answers the call and tries to prolong the conversation under some pretext. All this while, the curious caller gets charged a large amount for the call. The rates range from Rs 50 per minute to Rs 200 per minute.
The latest slew of attacks has arisen from numbers starting with a +92 code. This code belongs to numbers from Pakistan but it is impossible to be sure as attackers could have used several masking techniques. Tracing the country of origin of such calls is a very difficult process and it can only be accomplished by law enforcement agencies. It is largely suspected that these calls do not originate in India. Hence, callers are charged international rates for calling these international premium-rate numbers.
It is an ingenious way of stealing money off victims. Prepaid users will find their credit drastically reduced whereas postpaid users would only come to know of these charges once they view their monthly bill. The best course of action would be to simply ignore such suspicious missed calls and refrain from calling them back.
So what do you do in case you get a missed call or a call from an unknown number?
- If the number is not known, don’t call back.
- If you are expecting a call from abroad, (in cases of waiting for a call back from an applied overseas job, or alike) Google the number and find out the originating country before making a move.
- Install Truecaller or spam number identification software.
- Check your phone bills for exorbitant call charges to unknown numbers.
- Check with your telecom provider for a possible list of scam numbers.
- Store these numbers into your contact list for future alerts.
- Turn on call blocking to block out these numbers before you receive calls from them.
-with inputs from Quick Heal