The One Ring Scam To Rule Them All


If there’s one thing that freaks me out, it’s getting a call from an unknown number. I, for one, like to keep my contacts neat and organized. So when an unknown number calls my mobile phone, I either don’t answer or I let it ring and send them a text message later on.

As it turns out, that actually may be a good thing. Recently, there have been reports of people receiving a missed call from a certain number. Initially reported from other countries over the past few days, there were numerous reports of this scenario yesterday (11th) in Sri Lanka as well. Apart from being the plot of a horror movie, this “One Ring” scenario could actually cost you a lot.

What is the One Ring scam?

Well, for starters, it starts off like any other normal day. You’re at the office working or you’re at home on a weekend and suddenly your phone rings. Before you could reach it to answer the call, the caller disconnects and you’re left with a “missed call” notification. The first thing you would obviously do is to check the number. This is where things get interesting. You notice that the number is not from a local area code or even from your own country.

One Ring Scam
Image Credits: Ishqy Abdeen

Thinking that it’s one of your friends or relatives trying to contact you, you redial the number. After a few rings, the line goes dead. At this point, you might try again or just leave it and try again in a while or just leave it. Whatever your decision, if you decide to call back, you’re playing right into their hands. Upon checking your account balance you find out that a significant portion of it has gone missing.

So what happened?

That is essentially a One Ring scam. Originating from Japan, around the year 2012, the One Ring scam works by scammers hiring what is known as an international premium rate number or IPRN. Anyone calling these numbers is immediately charged a significantly high call charge and a part of that charge winds up in the scammers bank account. Because it’s human nature to investigate, one would call back and see who or where the call originated from.

One Ring Scam
Image Credits: Fox 8

Once you place the call to that number, you’re either kept on hold or the line would just keep ringing. While all this is happening, your phone credit is being siphoned off to these IPRN holders and they’re getting a cut from it as well. The longer you stay on the call, the higher you would be charged. Now imagine this happening to at least 100,000 people worldwide and each of them being charged USD 2, of which USD 1 goes to the scammers bank accounts. That’s an easy USD 100,000 right there with little to no work involved.

How can I stay safe from the One Ring Scam?

Currently the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) is investigating the scam and is urging anyone who gets a call from unknown or unfamiliar area codes to report it to them. Similarly, Sri Lanka Telecom and the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka have both launched individual investigations to get to the bottom of the scam and bring the scammers to justice. While this is all well and good, the results might take some time, during which you may fall victim to it. So here’s a few steps to be safe.

Don’t answer the call if you don’t know the number

For starters, if you do get a phone call from an unfamiliar area code, do not answer it If you know the person, then by all means do go ahead but unless you know the number, do not call the person back. To be on the safe side, if you think it’s a person you know, just send them a personal message via WhatsApp or any one of the messaging apps to see if it is indeed they who are trying to contact you. You can also try sending a text message to the number to see who it is. If they do not identify themselves and/or reply with a text similar to “please urgently call back”, be wary as it could be a ploy for the scammers to get you to call them.

Install A call Identification App

In addition, of you have an iOS or Android smartphone, you can install an app such as Truecaller. This app helps in identifying unknown numbers through crowd-sourced methods. When installing the app, users are asked to allow access to the user’s address book/contacts on the smart phone. This data is then uploaded by the app to the company’s servers. Thereby, it will literally show the name of the person calling, so the next time you get a call from that number it will show up. In fact, if people have blocked a certain number because it’s a spam number, the app will actually notify you before you answer it.

One Ring Scam
Image Credits: Truecaller

According to reports of people using Truecaller, the scam number originates from Roseau, the capital of Dominica. If you don’t know anyone there, and you get a missed call from a Dominican number, the chances are that it’s the scammers trying to get you to call them.

Last but by no means the least, spread the word. If you know anyone who this has happened to or in fact it happened to you, share it on social media and forums to make people aware of the existence of the scam so that they can be on their guard. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cures.

Were you a victim of the One Ring scam? Leave a comment below.


  1. Beware: the one ring phone scams are not confined to supposedly “foreign” displayed numbers.
    I’ve received a number of one-ringers whose number was local, even nearly identical to my own.
    Who can say where you would get connected should you call back!


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