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This Surprising Cell Phone Scam Could Cost You $9 a Minute

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The latest warning from scam-busters may look like a hoax that some of your gullible loved ones tend to circulate via email warnings, but it's true. Via a particularly nasty cell phone scam, a seemingly innocent missed call on your cell phone can turn into a big unwanted charge on your phone bill.

The folks at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) have issued a warning about the cell phone scam, explaining it in more detail. The scammers have their computers call your cell phone number (and, of course, the numbers of thousands of other people), and let the phone ring just once. That leaves a "missed call" indicator on your phone, and you -- holding your phone, wondering who just called and what they want. Some people might just ignore a call from an unfamiliar number, but others will call back, curious. That's when the trouble happens.

When you call back, you're actually calling an international number, and the cell phone scam immediately connects you to a premium service, such as an adult entertainment service or "chat" line. The meter starts running then, often hitting you with an initial international call fee of $19.95, followed by charges of perhaps $9 per minute, or more. The total hit could approach or surpass $100, but it could also be just a few dollars, so as not to catch your attention or concern.

What to do
Fortunately, you're not entirely powerless in the face of this cell phone scam. You can avoid getting involved by simply not calling back if you miss a call from an unknown number. The Better Business Bureau notes that these calls generally come from outside the U.S., with many having originated in Antigua or Barbuda (area code 268), the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284) and Grenada (473).

If you do get tricked by this cell phone scam, you should call your carrier as soon as possible, to ask that the charges be removed. It's also a good idea to review past statements, too, looking for suspicious charges. You may already have fallen victim to this cell phone scam. If you're irrepressibly curious, you might Google the phone number to see if you can learn anything about it. At a site such as, you can see what others might have reported about the number. 

Keep up with the latest in scams at the BBB Scam Stopper site. The savvier you are, the fewer headaches and losses you'll likely face. 

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  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 10:35 AM, AllenElliott wrote:

    Does this sound like they have the nature of the devil or the nature of God. Remember that whatever nature you copy is your father.

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Selena Maranjian

Selena Maranjian has been writing for the Fool since 1996 and covers basic investing and personal finance topics. She also prepares the Fool's syndicated newspaper column and has written or co-written a number of Fool books. For more financial and non-financial fare (as well as silly things), follow her on Twitter...

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