Wangiri: the one ring scam

Wangiri: the one ring scam

Irish mobile users are experiencing an increase in Wangiri fraud. Mobile users will miss a call and when they return it accrue a large phone bill.

In April, New Zealand had a similar wave of Wangiri fraud, originating from Poland and Chad. Mobile providers and police issued warnings, but the fraud proved effective and cost users hundreds of dollars. The fraud has now reached tens of thousands of Irish mobile users.

Common fraud

Japanese for ‘one ring and cut’, Wangiri refers to the fraudster’s desire to receive a call back. Fraudsters purchase phone numbers bought on the dark web – where criminals trade in illegal goods and services – to dial phone users in other countries and then immediately terminate the call.

When a potential victim calls back, they are usually calling premium lines and the fraudster pockets a proportion of the cost per minute of the call. Scammers attempt to keep the victim on the call for as long as possible to generate the most revenue, often using recorded messages to prolong the call.

Uncommon solution

Providers such as Vodafone have stated there is little they can do about the problem. However, blocking measures are being implemented that identify a Wangiri call and stop the number contacting any other mobile users across a network. Providers are also protecting customers by implementing controls that stop mobile users calling an identified Wangiri number. However, until the number is identified as fraudulent, it is difficult for a provider to take preventative measures.

How to keep safe

Once a number is targeted, users should wait for the scammer to move on. However, mobile providers also advise users to:

  • Set a password on phones, laptops or tablets when they are not in use, preventing third parties from answering calls on their behalf
  • Avoid answering calls from unfamiliar international numbers such as +269 (Comoros), +231 (Liberia), +216 (Tunisia) and +682 (Cook Islands)
  • Avoid returning calls that have left blank voice mails
  • Be aware that Wangiri fraud is global, with fake numbers potentially originating from any foreign country

The scam is an industry-wide problem for mobile operators. Providers should work together to find a solution that identifies fraudulent phone numbers purchased on the dark web instantly, before it causes financial damage through thousands of automated calls.

For more on Wangiri fraud and other key fraud issues, click here.

Wangiri Fraud