Mobile phone scam trying to get you to call Liberia has a name: Wangiri

It's commonplace to hear of suspicious phone calls from far-off places, but what happens if you return a missed call?

So what happens if you return a missed call from Liberia? Or the Comoros, or Belize, or Morocco?

The answer is simple: you will be scammed out of a lot of cash. 

It has now become increasingly common to hear of suspicious phone calls from far-off countries, which sees fraudsters dialling numbers from places like Liberia and immediately hanging-up.

The scam lies in the hope that they will be called back, whereupon the unassuming called will then be routed to a premium rate number, overseas, and billed a large sum of cash to listen to a pre-recorded message.

The ‘One Ring’ scam is often referred to as Wangiri, the name by which it is known in Japan – it means ‘one and cut’. The scam is not a new one, albeit a sort of evolution on the email scams where the widows of deposed Nigerian ministers seem to be willing to share with you their million-dollar offshore horde.

The scam is done with autodialling for maximum spread. However, the dialler hangs up after the first ring, so the number is recorded as a missed call on the prospective victim’s phone. If he or she notices the call and assumes that it was a legitimate call, he or she may well dial the ‘missed’ number in order to find out what the call was about.

The scam artists also use phone numbers bought on the dark web, where a healthy trade in illegal goods goes on. This, in fact, confirms the experience of couples at home who receive the scam phone calls within minutes of each other, suggesting that their data has been sold off.

According to the website Scam Alert, a variation of this scam is that the scammer might leave a voice message stating that they are official, and there has been an emergency, to which you must respond by calling them back.

The latest version involves WhatsApp messages with contact attachments, and you would be charged a hefty fee if you called that contact.

The fact-checking website Snopes says that those who call back “find themselves listening to advertisements for all sorts of dodgy services. Some firms try to hook callers into subscribing, say, to high-priced chat-lines or Internet services. Others dupe callers into providing credit-card numbers. Using caller-identification in reverse helps to harass more users.”

A Facecrooks alert also mentions the 268 area code (Antigua), but a number of other country codes have been linked with scams taking advantage of ‘pay-per-call’ numbers, including Belarus (375), the British Virgin Islands (284), the Dominican Republic (809), Grenada (473), Latvia (371) and Jamaica (876).