“One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Evil forces threatening to grip the world in darkness are nothing new, but they’re still scary. Both the One Ring of Middle-earth and the one-ring scam of this earth have the power to pull people into their destructive orbits.
You hear your phone ring, but before you can even consider answering it, it stops.
Huh, you think, then shrug your shoulders and continue scrolling through Instagram.
Soon your phone rings again, jolting you out of your Insta daze. It only rings once.
Weird, you think, then take a closer look at the missed call. It’s the same phone number that tried you just moments before. Double weird.
The phone number may or may not look familiar to you, but either way, you’re probably starting to wonder who’s trying to reach you, and why.
Sure, it might be the pharmacy or your child’s teacher calling, or — perhaps more likely — it could be a scammer hoping you’ll call them back. If you do, you’ll be slapped with a phone bill as inflated as Sauron’s ego.
That’s because when you call back, you’re connecting to a phone line that charges epic rates for every moment you’re connected. The scammer who got you to call the premium-rate number then gets a cut of those inflated costs.
Pretty clever, huh?
How one ring gets you
In a word: curiosity.
Fraudsters understand that humans are curious by nature. We’re also social animals who crave connection and sometimes suffer from severe cases of FOMO. All of these qualities make us more susceptible to the one-ring scam, which plays on our urge to know who tried to reach us. What might we miss out on if we don’t call them back?
With spoof calls surging, scammers are getting even more effective at convincing people to call them back. If you see a missed call from a local business, your doctor’s office, or a number that looks like it could be your neighbor’s, wouldn’t you be more likely to call back?
Even if you’re savvy enough to know about call spoofing and scams, some people — like job seekers and small business owners — feel they can’t afford to let calls go unanswered. But then they can’t afford to lose money returning predatory calls either.
So what do you do?
For starters, do NOT call back. You might be curious to know who called, but the knowledge you stand to gain comes at an outrageous cost. Resist the urge!
If the call’s important, they’ll leave a voicemail. If there’s a service issue that’s causing all of these calls to drop, it won’t last forever. Wait it out, and if the caller legitimately needs to speak to you, they’ll try again and leave a voicemail when you don’t pick up.
If you don’t know people abroad, block all international calls or calls from specific countries with Truecaller Premium. You can even block calls from all numbers not in your contacts. Find out more about Premium scam prevention features.
If you don’t want to auto-block unfamiliar numbers, you can still use the Truecaller app to label incoming calls from known spammers and scammers.
Older people are especially vulnerable to phone scams, so educate the older folks in your life. Make sure they know not to return missed calls they don’t recognize, especially if the call only rang once.
For protection against phone scams, download the Truecaller app in Google Play or Apple Store.