Agencies warn of two types of calls

A new series of emerging phone scams originating from overseas is hitting local residents and their wallets.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection is alerting consumers to a “wangiri” (Japanese for “one cut”) or one-ring phone scam in which an unsuspecting individual’s phone rings just one time from an international number. If the individual calls the number back, scammers attempt to collect personal information or try to keep the caller on the line – all while international charges accrue.

The scam can cost victims thousands of dollars without even realizing it, as the scam seeks to connect the user with a variety of sites that can charge money via the phone account. The numbers are often connected to lottery prize messages, credit card collection attempts, or even phone sex services.

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “Robocalls are becoming increasingly out of control and sometimes it is tempting to call the number back. Unfortunately, call backs to international and US-originated numbers can signal that your phone is ‘live’ and you may end up receiving even more calls. Be aware, be smart and do not answer the phone so you do not fall for scammers trying to get your hard-earned cash.”

The scam surfaced in Japan last year and has slowly made its way to the United States.

Blocking the calls does not work, as callers just change the number they are dialing from or “spoof” a new number to the phone to get around call blocking.

If a consumer calls the number back:

It signals that the phone is a valid number – which may result in more calls;

The call will result in international charges;

The scammers who answer will try to gather personal information or keep the caller on the line for as long as possible; and

scammers may connect to pay-per-call services in the country where the first call originated, allowing them to collect money through the caller’s phone bill.

Senior service organizations are also warning of ongoing phone scams.

According to its Director, Melanie Gasdik, a client of the Allegany County Office for the Aging received a phone call yesterday from the "Office for the Aging" stating their money had run out and they needed to pay now or lose services.

"The Allegany County Office for the Aging would never call and threaten to remove services for lack of payment. The majority of our services are offered at a suggested contribution only. If anyone calls and wants immediate payment over the phone, it is a SCAM! Please hang up and do not give out any personal information," she urged.

New Yorkers can file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection. The New York State Division of Consumer Protection investigates Do Not Call violations and provides voluntary mediation between a consumer and a business when a consumer has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution on their own.

The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.