Consumer advocates warn about "one ring" phone scam

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A telephone scam is sweeping across the nation, including Indiana - and you're paying for it.

Your phone rings once or twice and your caller ID shows "unknown" or a long distance area code - even international - that you're not familiar with, but you answer anyway. By the time you do, no one is on the other end and there is no trace of a voicemail. You try calling back, but there's no answer or just noise.

It's all part of a practice called "phone cramming," specifically, the "one ring scam."

"These people are using robo-calling, that type of thing. If they've got your cell phone number, they can put a call in to you, so there's really nothing you can do to prevent a call from coming in," said Tim Maniscalo, president and CEO of the Indiana Better Business Bureau.

But once you answer, you're being charged. And the scammers know it. Cell phone plans are billed through automation and usage on both incoming and outgoing calls.

"You don't know it until the bill comes around and really what they're counting on is that you're not going to examine your bill closely. You might see $20 on there and say, 'Hey, I've gone over my cell phone usage for that month'," Maniscalo said.

The scammers hope you don't pay attention to your statement. But one too many "one ring scams" at $20 a charge can add up.

So make sure you know the number, don't return the call to a number you don't know. But if you do make a connection and become a victim, take action.

"Call your phone carrier and let them know. Typically, those people will take that off. Also, let the Better Business Bureau know. You can also call the Attorney General, they want to know about these things," Maniscalo said.

Victims have reported calls from the Caribbean and British Virgin Islands.

More information from the Better Business Bureau