What is the Wangiri Scam? (And how can you protect yourself?)

One of the most effective phone scams is also one of the least known – the Wangiri Scam. Wangiri, meaning ‘one ring and cut’ in Japanese, is extremely effective, costing telecoms operators more than $1.8bn every year.

But what is the Wangiri Scam?

How does the Wangiri Scam work?

The Wangiri Scam is actually extremely simple:

  1. The fraudster calls a victim’s cellular telephone. The call is cut after one ring before the victim can answer.
  2. The victim sees they have a missed call and attempts a return call.
  3. The call is routed to a premium-rate telephone number located overseas.
  4. The victim is then placed on hold. The longer they wait, the more the call costs.
  5. Eventually the victim ends the call – but not before they have been charged for the premium-rate call.
  6. The scammer is paid a percentage of the call cost by the foreign telecoms provider.

Premium rate numbers are always expensive to call – even more so when they are located abroad. By using computer systems capable of dialing thousands of numbers every hour, scammers can generate huge amounts of money each day using the Wangiri scam.

What are the warning signs of the Wangiri Scam?

The whole idea of the Wangiri Scam is that the victim is not supposed to answer the initial incoming call. The fraudsters want you to miss it, which is why the call is cut after one ring. The European Cybercrime Centre has identified three warning signs that may indicate you are being targeted by the Wangiri Scam:

  1. The call comes through at a time when you are least likely to be able to answer. Whilst you are sleeping at night or working during the day are particularly effective for the scammers.
  2. The missed call comes from an unusual international dialing code.
  3. The call is cut after a single ring.

How to avoid becoming a victim of the Wangiri Scam

The first step to avoid falling victim to Wangiri scammers is to be aware of the three warning signs outlined above. Before returning a ‘missed’ call, you should check:

  1. Check if the caller left a voicemail message. Wangiri Scammers never leave voicemail messages so if you have received one, the call is probably legitimate.
  2. Check the caller ID. If the call came from an unusual foreign number, there is a chance that you have been targeted by a scammer.
  3. Be patient. If genuinely important, the caller will usually attempt to ring you back at another time.

As always, the success of the Wangiri Scam relies on you taking action before you consider what you are doing and the potential implications. However, by taking note of the three warning signs above. Knowing what to look for will help you avoid falling victim – and an unexpectedly large phone bill too.

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