Mobile users worldwide, including Malta, are receiving unexpected calls from different international telephone numbers as part of a massive, global scam with the objective to entice them to call back.
These calls are usually dropped after a few rings resulting in missed calls on the recipients’ mobile phones. The recipient is often tempted into calling back the number listed as a missed call. This characteristic has lent itself to the use of the industry term Wangiri, which translates to ‘one ring and cut’ in Japanese, to refer to such calls.
No charges apply when one answers such calls while in Malta or while roaming in a country within the EU or EEA. However, international call charges generally apply if a person calls back by redialling the international number.
The Malta Communications Authority (MCA) said that although there are different ways and means of sourcing phone numbers, in general these scam calls are often made to sequential phone numbers within different number ranges. By targeting a whole number block, it is highly likely that a percentage of persons utilising numbers from the block will call back.
The scammers may receive cash returns for each call back, or even kick off more elaborate scams, leading the innocent parties to divulge personal and financial information and make them vulnerable to blackmail, fiscal loss and/or identity theft.
Service providers worldwide are working and collaborating to tackle these Wangiri scam calls. In Malta, a process has been established over one year ago following an agreement between the Malta MCA and all local telephony service providers. When a number or number range is identified as being utilised for scam calls, this information is shared among all local telephony service providers so that they may block outgoing calls to the identified number or number range. Although this is a useful measure, it may not always be effective since the scammers typically change the numbers used to make these calls frequently to bypass this prevention mechanism.
The MCA issued the following tips in order to protect those on the receiving end of such spam calls.
Do not answer calls from unidentified international numbers immediately since typically these are dropped after a few rings.
Do not return any missed calls from unfamiliar international numbers.
If a call is returned unintentionally, the caller should end the call as soon as possible to minimise the costs incurred.
Under no circumstances should you disclose personal information over the phone.
Block incoming calls from unknown international numbers using any available phone blocking features.
Inform your telephony service provider of any unfamiliar international numbers from which calls are being received. Service providers will make use of this information so that they may block outgoing calls to these numbers, thus preventing any harm to clients who return such calls.
Store international numbers of persons and entities you communicate with in your phone’s contact list this would reduce the chance of mistaking calls from these numbers with unwanted calls.