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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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BBB Top of the Week: Phone cramming

The Better Business Bureau has received complaints from consumers who returned missed calls only to be unexpectedly charged for the redial.

In these cases, scammers ring your number once and hang up, with the hopes that you’ll return the missed call. This is the “one ring scam.”

Scammers are relying on the confusion that Caribbean phone numbers are international but look like phone numbers from the U.S. and Canada. Also, those who own phone numbers located within Caribbean nations do not have the same consumer rights regarding premium-rate numbers, like 900/976 numbers, that we are used to in the U.S. So each time you return a missed call from one of these numbers, you may be calling a premium number without realizing it. And your phone bill may receive a charge of a few dollars or $20 or more.

This is phone cramming, third parties placing unapproved charges on your phone bill. The BBB encourages you to consider the following tips to protect your phone bill from unauthorized charges:

• If you’re uncertain whether to return a missed call, you can look up the area code at the North American Numbering Plan Administration’s Query page at to see the country of origin for that number.

• Consider downloading an app that can check area codes and phone numbers from your cellphone’s call history.

• Check your phone statements every month for unexpected charges.

• Beware of robocalls that ask you to press a number for different options. Never press a number or call the number back. Instead, hang up.

• For persistent calls from a single number, you can ask your phone company to block it.

If you find that your phone bill has been crammed, then the following steps can help stop the scammers and get the charges removed:

• Report any instances of phone cramming or scams to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaint The FTC works on your behalf to stop scammers and illegal activities.

• Call your phone provider and discuss removing the unauthorized charges from your bill.

• If your phone company won’t remove the charges, you can report the phone cramming to the Federal Communications Commission at

For more tips, visit the BBB at or call (509) 455-4200.

Erin Dodge, BBB editor

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