Stop answering calls from unknown numbers

You may have experienced this already. You find a missed call on your phone from an international number that is not in your contacts. Be careful now, because you’re most likely being targeted by a wangiri scam.

The word wangiri is Japanese for “one ring and cut”, and the scam is done by phone. Its goal is to trick people into calling back an expensive number in a foreign country. The scam has been around for a long time, but its frequency has increased a lot lately.

Here is how it works: fraudsters call a person’s phone from a high-rate premium number. They let it ring once and hang up. The person notices the missed call and, usually out of curiosity, calls it back. The fraudsters answer, trying to keep the conversation running as long as possible, and the caller is charged premium rates. A fraudulent transit operator of this range successfully generates an artificial boost in traffic to their service, increasing their revenue.

“Wangiri scams are often used as an intro to a phishing attack. The scammer may leave a message claiming to be your bank or a government agency, urging you to call back to verify a problem with your account.”

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Wangiri 2.0

Companies may fall victim to an advanced version of wangiri: attacks performed by bots. Wangiri 2.0 goes beyond individuals and targets businesses. The principle is the same but the impact can be immense with considerable financial losses.

  • Internet bots submit an international premium rate phone number to a business online contact form. 
  • The company calls back this number via their voice services and pays premium rates.
  • Fraudsters on the other end try to keep the caller on the line for as long as possible, usually by playing a recording of a ringing connection, tricking the caller into waiting even longer and running up expensive charges.

What you should know

  • Stay alert when receiving a call from an international telephone number.
  • Don’t call back if you have a missed call from an international number your phone does not recognize, both on your mobile or on a landline.
  • Google the number that called you to check if other people made complaints about it.
  • Block calls on your smartphone via the phone application:
    • Android app: Tap Recent > Tap the number you want to blog > Tap Info > Tap “More” and “Block contact”
    • iPhone app: tap Recents, or Voicemail > Tap Info > Scroll down and tap Block this Caller.
  • Delete the number from your phone so you don’t dial it by mistake.

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Louis worked in hospitality, sales, marketing, and media before joining duomedia. A diversity of skills he uses to come up with strong communication and branding campaigns. He enjoys sharing his passion for communication, which makes him an excellent public speaker and moderator.