Wangiri fraud: What happens when you return a missed call from an unusual number?

Thousands of phone users targeted in telephone scam using international numbers

Conor Pope reports on an unusual phone scam whereby people ring back a phone number from a missed call and are charged a lot of money for listening to a recording.

 

What happens if you return that missed call from Liberia? Or the Comoros, Tunisia or the Coook Islands? Disappointingly, the answer is not a lot, although you will waste a whole lot of cash.

There is no African princess on the end of the line waiting with a suitcase of blood diamonds. And you will not get to speak to a rich businessman waiting to send you a suitcase full of money you can spend on good deeds.

Thousands of phone users across all the Irish mobile networks have been targeted since the beginning of the week in a telephone scam which sees fraudsters dialling from numbers in Liberia and Chad and immediately disconnecting in the hope those who are targeted will call back.

Once they do return the missed call they will be re-routed to premium rate number overseas and will be subsequently billed exorbitant sums for the privilege of listening to pre-recorded messages.

The scam, commonly known as Wangiri fraud, sees scam artists use phone numbers bought on the dark web (where criminals trade in illegal goods and services) to dial phone users in other countries and then immediately disconnect the calls to them.

The aim of the scam is to encourage those who see a missed call on their phone to ring the number, after which they will be ripped off.

When this newspaper called a Liberian number on Wednesday afternoon to ascertain the nature of the scam, we were connected to an automated conversation featuring a woman who appeared to be speaking Arabic.

In order to avoid being scammed, the best and only advice is to not to do what The Irish Times did.

People who receive a call from an international number, including those with  +269 (Comoros), +231 (Liberia), +216 (Tunisia) and +682 (Cook Islands) prefixes that they don’t recognise, should not return the call. If it is important or legitimate the caller will either ring back or leave a message.

The scam is a telecoms industry-wide problem and is not specific to this country.