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

By Selena Maranjian – Feb 8, 2014 at 8:16AM

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There's a new scam in town -- the missed-call cell phone scam, to be exact -- and the Better Business Bureau has issued a warning. Don't let your curiosity overtake caution or you could be out hundreds of dollars.

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. 

Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter,has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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