If Your Phone Rings Once in the Middle of the Night, Don’t Call Back

Hint: The call isn't the worst you need to worry about.

Closeup portrait of young sleepy exhausted woman lying in bed using smartphone, can not sleep/ Insomnia, nomophobia, sleep disorder concept/ Dependency on a cell phone/ Internet addictionDimaBerlin/Shutterstock

Scammers use every type of communication to trick you into sending money or revealing personal information. Email and phone scams are the most popular—and a new phone scam you need to watch out for involves just one ring.


That one ring could be enough to scam you. Although, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the biggest worry isn’t the receiving call. Sometimes, the goal of illegal robocalls isn’t to have you answer, but to get you to call back. If your phone only rings once from an unrecognizable number, don’t return it, the FCC warns. These one-ring calls from scammers appear to be from within the United States. The three-digit codes resembling area codes, however, come from outside of the country. Watch out for these 10 other phone scams that want your money.

The scam only works when you call back. If you do connect to a phone from outside the United States, there’ll likely be a charge in addition to a per-minute talking fee, the FCC says. Part of this fee goes to the scammers and is how they make their money. If you ever hear this four-word phrase when you pick up the phone, hang up immediately. If you don’t answer, scammers might leave a phony voicemail asking you to call back for a prize or to notify you about a “sick” relative. People in New York and Arizona were targets overnight, and scammers like targeting areas in groups, CNN reports.

Avoid this scam, no matter where you are, by checking area codes to see if they are international. Another surefire way to skip the scam is not to return calls from any number you don’t recognize, per the FCC. If you end up getting one of these calls, fill out a complaint on the FCC and or FTC websites. Note, these robocalls are not the same thing as calls from a telemarketer—but they can be just as annoying. Here’s how you can get rid of telemarketers.

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.