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Phone scam warning: Don't return a missed call you don't recognize

Wangiri scams — one ring and cut — can lead to big overseas phone bills
checking smart phone
An old scam is making its way to Vancouver phones lately. Someone calls and hangs up after one ring. Don't be tempted to call back if you don't recognize the number, police say.

On Wednesday, Const. Jason Doucette got two phone calls from numbers he didn’t recognize.

He ignored them and went on his day as media officer with the Vancouver Police Department.

On Thursday, the Courier called him to ask about a worldwide phone scam that appears to be spreading in Canada from east to west. The fraud is a variation of something called Wangiri, a Japanese word that means one (ring) and cut. Apparently, the fraudsters hope that you will call them back. If you do, the call is routed to an overseas premium rate number. The caller ends up getting billed a large sum of cash just to listen to a pre-recorded number. The long you listen, the higher your phone bill can get. 

Since Doucette’s advice is to never call back a number you don’t recognize, he did something else to see if someone was trying to scam him.

He typed the number in a Google search. Instantly his screen was filled with cautions not to dial the number because it was part of a fraud scam.

Such one-ring scams are not new. The Better Business Bureau sent out a warning about them in 2014. However, the dropped calls are showing up with annoying frequency on Vancouver residents' phones lately.

The Courier's digital editor tweeted about phone calls she had received to her carrier, Rogers, and received this tweet thread as a response:

The VPD says it has not received any formal complaints about a Wangiri-type phone scam, although they too have noticed the swirl of warnings on social media.

“If you don’t recognize a number, don’t call them back,” Doucette says. “If it’s an emergency or if it’s important enough, they’ll call you back or leave a message.”

Any time you are contacted, by phone or email, from someone you don’t know, exercising healthy scepticism is always a wise response. “Unfortunately, scams are limited only by the imagination of the crooks,” Doucette says.

Doucette adds that if someone feels they’ve been a victim of a fraud, they should contact their local police department.