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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Talk about a cold call: Antarctica latest Wangiri phone scam destination targeting UAE residents

Mobile customers have received a flood of suspicious calls from far-flung destinations in recent weeks

A UAE resident has issued a warning over cold calls from Antarctica that could leave customers with hefty phone bills. AFP
A UAE resident has issued a warning over cold calls from Antarctica that could leave customers with hefty phone bills. AFP

Consumers are being warned not to be caught out by phone scams from far-flung destinations such as Antarctica that could leave them with a huge bill.

UAE residents reported receiving a series of calls from Antarctica, the tiny Pacific island of Nauru and Luxembourg in the past week.

Experts have warned phone users against returning missed phone calls from overseas numbers they don't recognise.

Users can be charged up to $50 per minute if they return the call.

Dubbed the Wangiri scam, those behind the scam have targeted phone users across the globe. Wangiri translates to ‘one ring and cut’ in Japan, where it first began.

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Philip Hitchcox, 38, the leasing director for a Dubai property agency, received missed calls from Antarctica and Nauru - both established hubs for the scam - along with South Korea and Grand Prairie in Texas in the past week.

"At least with Antarctica, it's so unusual that you can tell it must be some sort of scam," he said.

"But people could be taken in by some of the other destinations. You do get calls from all over the world when working here."

British resident Lynsey, 32, received a series of dropped calls this week.

"You do get a lot of unsolicited calls from companies here, for offers and upgrades, but I knew this must be something more suspect so I didn't answer," said the construction sector employee, who asked that her surname not be used.

"You do hear of scams that charge you by the minute, and of WhatsApp offers with dodgy links and so on."

a du customer has received phone calls from some unlikely destinations in recent days.
a du customer has received phone calls from some unlikely destinations in recent days.

Other social media users living in Dubai also shared images on Facebook and Twitter of missed calls from Antarctica.

The phone calls are usually disconnected after a few rings prompting the receiver to call back.

The method used by fraudsters involves routing people who ring back to a premium rate number. The callers are unable to disconnect as they are locked into an automated recorded message until it runs out after a few minutes.

The scam works by keeping the caller on the phone for a prolonged period connected to premium rate numbers.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has urged residents to file any complaints with the service providers directly.

Ramon Penas / The National
Ramon Penas / The National

Both du and Etisalat have told residents to phone customer care services if they suspected hoax calls.

Residents have previously been targeted by fraudsters who promise to award them large sums of money while asking for bank details and personal information.

In a public advisory, du asked customers not to entertain calls from people they did not know, to be aware of fraudulent calls and to decline to divulge bank details.