Sri Lanka phone users targeted in suspected premium callback scam

ECONOMYNEXT – Phone users in Sri Lanka have been receiving missed calls from strange numbers in Africa and other countries in a suspected premium callback scam, where they are billed for large sums if they return the call.

Phone users told EconomyNext they received calls from numbers like +235,646,2532 which is from Chad, or +212,621-001782 which is Morocco.

An official at Sri Lanka’s Telecom Regulatory Commission said they were investigating complaints.

The missed calls are characteristic of a so-called ‘premium callback’ scam where a person is induced to return the call to a premium service for which fees are charged.

A person who calls back the number out of curiosity could be landed with a large bill running into thousands of rupees for one call.

Some countries in Africa also have high settlement fees, which will add to the bill.

Users in countries like the US have been targets of such calls also known as ‘one-ring phone scams.’

Anyone who returns the missed call “may wind up being charged a fee for connecting, along with significant per-minute fees for as long as they can keep you on the phone,” the Federal Communications Commission said in a warning to users.

“These charges may show up on your bill as premium services, international calling, or toll-calling.

Variations of this scam rely on phony voice-mail messages urging you to call a number with an unfamiliar area code to “schedule a delivery” or to notify you about a “sick” relative.

The FCC recommends the following actions to avoid the scam.

Don’t answer or return any calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

Before calling unfamiliar numbers, check to see if the area code is international.

If you do not make international calls, ask your phone company to block outgoing international calls on your line.

Always be cautious, even if a number appears authentic.

There is also a whatsapp message circulating which is warning users that calling back may risk data being stolen, though it is not clear whether data is being stolen. (SB-Colombo/Dec18/2019)