Above: A robocall is more than annoying, it can be costly. Pixabay.

Speaking for myself, and I dare say many others, robocalls are about as welcome as your drunk uncle armed with a set of banned lawn darts at the Fourth of July picnic. You just know nothing good will follow.

Robocalls have been around long enough, since man first figured out how to scam others and not have to do it face to face. Some folks overseas have come up with another scam designed to rid you of your money.

Warning issued

In early May, the Federal Communication Commission issued a warning about a new form of robocall, designed to call you with only one ring. The strategy is to entice a return call from the curious recipient, who assumes he or she missed a call — perhaps one that could be important.

In some cases, the intended victim receives several one-ring calls, further enticing a return call. The victim, who calls back, is either met by a live person or recording, all done in an effort to keep them on the line, racking up expensive toll charges, much like a 900 number.

You remember 900 numbers, don’t you? The late-night commercials depicting beautiful women who have nothing to do on a Friday night except lie around and talk to you? By the way, if you believe that scenario, you need to ride your unicorn over to the reality store.

Fast forward to the phone bill and sticker shock from the toll charges, depending on the carrier, the rate and the time spent on the line. It makes for a bad day.

The term for this type of scam is known as “International Shared Revenue” fraud. The fraudster’s goal is to drive phone numbers — like yours — to premium rate — also known as really-expensive — phone numbers. The scammers get a kickback from the call volume, according to Tim Prugar, Vice President of the fraud-detection company Next Caller, in an interview with New York Times.

Robocall surge

The robocall monitoring and blocking service YouMail estimates 4.9 billion robocalls were made in the U.S. in April 2019. The FCC reported a surge in robocalls in Arizona and New York during the first few days in May. Most came from “222” country codes belonging to Mauritania, Africa. “232” originates from Sierra Leone.

Prugar went on to say that perhaps one percent of robocalls lead to someone calling back — but if an operation can cheaply make 100 million calls, it would yield 1 million hits.

What should you do? A good defense is to develop a habit of NOT returning calls to unknown numbers and definitely NOT return a one-ring call. Put your learning hat on and familiarize yourself with area codes originating from outside the U.S.

Most of us probably know the term “butt-dial.” If you get one, don’t assume it’s from family or friends. Look at the number and if you don’t know it, don’t call it!

Steve Rose

Steve Rose is a retired police captain and a contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.