Police can only do so much about one-ring scam, minister says

Maltese police are unable to protect unsuspecting phone-users from the one-ring scams from far-flung countries says Home Affairs Minister

What to do when you’ve had enough of Liberian and Antiguan prank callers?
What to do when you’ve had enough of Liberian and Antiguan prank callers?

Maltese police are unable to protect unsuspecting phone-users from the one-ring scams from far-flung countries which try to lure people to call back on expensive phone-lines.

According to Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia, police are unable to locate the origin of these phone-calls despite their location flashing on smartphone screens.

Farrugia was answering a parliamentary question from Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina earlier this week. “The police is doing all that is possible to create awareness about this crime by way of prevention, and when it receives these phone-calls, it coordinates with service providers to prevent these numbers from being used on their networks.”

It has now become increasingly common to hear of suspicious phone calls from far-off countries, which involve 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, meaning ‘one and hang-up’. The number is recorded as a missed call on the prospective victim’s phone, who may well dial the ‘missed’ number of some high-priced chat-line.
What to do when you’ve had enough of Liberian and Antiguan prank callers?

Vodafone corporate senior executive Kim Dalli has told MaltaToday that smartphone users can not only block a number, but also see whether the phone can alert users to incoming scam calls. Even if blocking a number is not supported by the smartphone, there are specific apps from the Google or Apple store that enable the function to block numbers.

But non-smartphones might not have the faculty to block these calls and unfortunately, providers like Vodafone cannot stop incoming calls for you.

However, Dalli said Vodafone can stop its clients from calling the scam number by blocking outgoing calls. “Vodafone is unable to stop incoming calls, but it can stop its clients from calling the scam number by blocking outgoing calls,” Dalli said.

And when various people complain about the same number, Dalli said that Vodafone usually block outgoing calls to the particular number. This way, no one would be able to call the number in question.

Vodafone keeps a list of all the numbers that it has blocked through an internal process, and passes on the information to the Malta Communications Authority for their reference.

The MCA has also devised a process for all telephony providers to share a number or number range used in scam calls, to block outgoing calls to the identified number or number range.

Although this is an effective measure, it is to be taken into consideration that the scammers behind these calls typically change the numbers very frequently to bypass this prevention mechanism, an MCA spokesperson had said in an earlier contribution to the press.

“Do not answer calls from unidentified, international numbers immediately since many times these are dropped after a few rings. In the case of genuine calls, the caller would typically let the phone ring several times before dropping the call and would also re-attempt to call again if previous calls have not been answered.

“Also, do not return any missed calls from unidentified, international numbers. If a call is returned unintentionally, the caller should end the call as soon as possible to minimise the costs incurred. Also, one should under no circumstances disclose personal information over the phone,” the MCA spokesperson said.

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).

More in National