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‘Missed call’ trick targeting more residents in eastern N.D.

By Ryan Bakken / Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Police Department personnel know from personal experience that phone scams continue to be a problem.

“We haven’t received an uptick of reports from citizens lately, but our work cell phones here are getting a workout,” said Lt. Jim Remer, department spokesman.`

“We’re getting a lot of calls with caller IDs from Barbados and Antigua. We’re just ignoring them or blocking them. Most citizens have learned to do the same thing.”

Karen Smith, Verizon’s spokesperson for North Dakota, said the company has received numerous reports from customers in the western half of the state since early January and the eastern half is now apparently receiving the same.

 “They tend to target different area codes at one time,” Smith said. “We believe a lot of this is computer-generated auto dialing. The calls don’t know if they have accurate phone numbers or not.

“The current rash of calls appears to be coming from out of country.”

Although there are various scams, one of the more common ones is for the caller to hang up after one ring or as soon as the phone is answered. If recipients return the call, they can be charged $20 for the first minute of making an international call. Area codes to be especially wary of are Barbados’ 246, Antiqua’s 268 and Grenada’s 473. Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands are other locations of one-ring calls.

If the return call is put on hold and the caller remains on the line, the charge can be an additional $9 per minute.

“If you get an incoming call from an area code you don’t recognize, don’t answer it,” Smith said. “If you don’t pick up the phone, they might leave a voice mail for you to call back to win a prize. You don’t want to do that, either.”

Smith said customers can go on Verizon’s website to block specific numbers for no charge and call (800) 922-0204 to report suspicious text message or calls. They also can request refunds as the company “deals with these charges on a case-by-case basis,” Smith said.

The best way to avoid such charges, she said, is to avoid unfamiliar numbers. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem had the same message with a posting on his department’s website:

 “If you missed a call on your cell phone from an out of state number, think twice before you redial. You may be the next target of the ‘missed call’ scam.

“If you redial, you are connected to an international chat line or other premium pay-per-minute service. You are responsible for any charges, which are added to your phone bill.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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