Don't Return Calls or Texts from These Area Codes, It Could Be a Scam

This scam pops up every few years, but it's easy to protect yourself if you know how it works

Don't Return Calls or Texts from These Area Codes, It Could Be a Scam
Image: Pixabay
March 9, 2017

It's back again.

A scam using consumers' phones to help criminals steal money has popped back up, as it seems to do every few years. Fortunately, it's easy to protect yourself if you know how it works.

There are three versions of the scam:

  • In the first, scammers target victims by calling them—usually using a robocall autodialer that provides the victims with caller ID information that he or she doesn't recognize—and hangs up before they answer. This raises the victim's curiosity. The scammers sometimes do this several times in a row, hoping that the victim will call back when they see several calls made from the same number.
  • In another version, the criminals don't hang up. Instead, when the victims answers, the robocaller plays a recording of an individual crying for help, in need of medical attention, or being attacked, then hangs up. These criminals are playing on victims' desires to help others.
  • In the third variation, the scammer sends a text message like the recording above, claiming to be in danger and in need of help. They often make it seem like the message was accidentally send to a wrong number.

In each version of this scheme—commonly known as the "473 Scam," "Ring and Run Scam," or "One Ring Scam"—the criminal wants you to either call or text back. The number shown in your caller ID or sent in a text is likely a premium number, and you will be charged—sometimes very high amounts—for any calls you make or texts you send to that number.

Fortunately, it's easy to protect yourself from this scam. Don't call or text back.

How to Identify Scam Calls or Texts

This scheme is often called the "473 Scam" because criminals have often used caller IDs with area code 473. Although this area code looks domestic, in reality it is the code for the island of Grenada and several other islands that use the same country code (+1) as the U.S. Calls made to numbers with this area code are international and can be very expensive.

The scam is also run from other area codes that look domestic because of the country code but are really international. Remember that Canada and several U.S. territories also use country code +1, though scammers do not usually run schemes from these particular locations. 809, the area code for the Carribean islands, has also been used in the past.

Here's the bottom line to keep yourself safe from this scam: any time you miss a call, the other party can send you a text or leave a voicemail, and if they didn't do either one and you don't know the number, ignore it. In addition, remember that people you don't know who are in distress in places you don't know are more likely to call the police than a random number in a different country.

Current International Area Codes to Avoid

Unless you know someone living in one of these places, it's best not to respond if someone tries to contact you from a number with one of these area codes even though they use the +1 country code. This list is not exhaustive; you can see the full list here.

  • 242—Bahamas
  • 441—Bermuda
  • 784—St. Vincent and Grenadines
  • 246—Barbados
  • 473—Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique
  • 809, 829, and 849—Dominican Republic