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You’ve likely heard a few reports about a new phone scam that can result in you losing a serious amount of cash. You could’ve passed this off — after all, there’s always some sort of scheme used by criminals to target everyday folk.

Alternatively, you might be worried, especially if you’ve elderly relatives or friends Scams That Prey on Older People and How to Avoid Them Scams That Prey on Older People and How to Avoid Them Do you worry that you or someone you love, might fall prey to scams on the Internet or out there in the world? Read More who might easily fall prey to it.

So what is the so-called 473 scam? Should you be concerned? And what can you do to make sure no one you love becomes a victim?

What Exactly Is the 473 Scam?

The vast majority of phones have caller ID, and criminals have a hard time of it, poor things, because you’re less likely to answer or call back numbers you don’t recognize. The idea behind this fraudulent activity, however, is to trick you into thinking it’s a local call, so you’ll pick up in case it is someone you know.

grenada location google maps

That’s why they use the area code 473, hence the colloquial term 30 Trendy Internet Slang Words and Acronyms You Need To Know To Fit In 30 Trendy Internet Slang Words and Acronyms You Need To Know To Fit In The Internet can be a confusing place, even for someone who is using it every day. Here are some key terms you need to be aware of. Read More given to the scam, which looks like a domestic and familiar number for Americans 10 Best US Zip Code & Area Code Finder Websites 10 Best US Zip Code & Area Code Finder Websites Read More .

Actually, 473 is the area code for Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique, islands south of America, located near Venezuela. These operate using the USA’s international dialing code +1. As such, criminals aren’t confined solely to 473. Here are some more +1 codes used by scammers, and where they originate:

  • 242 — Bahamas
  • 246 — Barbados
  • 264 — Anguilla
  • 268 — Antigua
  • 284 — British Virgin Islands
  • 345 — Cayman Islands
  • 441 — Bermuda
  • 649 — Turks and Caicos
  • 664 — Montserrat
  • 721 — Sint Maarten
  • 758 — Lucia
  • 767 — Dominica
  • 784 — Vincent and Grenadines
  • 809, 829, 849 — Dominican Republic
  • 868 — Trinidad and Tobago
  • 869 — Kitts and Nevis
  • 876 — Jamaica

Since around 2014, the main cause for concern’s been 284, 473, 649, 809, and 876. It’s quite a list of numbers to be skeptical of, and that’s without further factoring in criminals using Canadian area codes, hoping your call plan doesn’t include these.

What Does the Scam Entail?

The hoax is also known as the “one ring scam”, and that’s because criminals will generally let your phone go off for one ring only, enticing you to call back. It’s especially unsettling if it happens in the middle of the night, leading you to think there’s something desperately wrong. It could also be repetitive in order to frustrate you into telling them to stop How to Block Unwanted Calls and Texts on Android for Free How to Block Unwanted Calls and Texts on Android for Free Sick of spammy calls and texts on Android? Here's how to take control and block them for free and without rooting your device. Read More .

Of course, there are plenty of variations. If you answer the phone, they might immediately ring off. Worse still is when fraudsters use an auto dialer which then plays a very distressing message: typically, this is a cry for help, someone pleading for assistance, or the sounds of a fight. You might think this is someone you know in trouble, or a stranger calling you by accident.

You could instead receive a text message How to Spot an SMS Scam and What to Do Next How to Spot an SMS Scam and What to Do Next SMS phishing (or SMiShing) is the act of phishing using SMS messages. They're common, so must be a successful line of attack for online scammers. But how can you spot an SMS scam? Read More , again purporting to be sent to the wrong number but nonetheless in need of help. (An emotional response is vital How to Be Emotionally Intelligent (No Matter What) How to Be Emotionally Intelligent (No Matter What) Emotional intelligence is more important than IQ today. What emotions do you struggle with? Are stress and anxiety keeping you down? Or are you plagued by a never-ending sense of isolation. Read More for the scammers, so you’re still more likely to get a call than an SMS.)

red landline rotary phone
Image Credit: Phil Whitehouse via Flickr

Whatever the case, you’ll feel compelled to ring back, and that’s exactly the point.

You’ll be calling back a premium number. Currently, phoning an international code will result in an automatic $19.95 fee, then $9 a minute after that (unless it’s a particularly nasty scheme which instead charges $20 every single minute). That’s one hefty bill. You’ll also be charged inflated rates for texting the scammers back, even with a simple “Who is this?” or “Please stop contacting me.”

What Can You Do About It?

It’s very simple: don’t answer the phone and don’t return the call! That can take some perseverance if the fraudsters are repeatedly trying your number, or if you’ve answered and heard signs of distress.

Naturally, there’s the small chance it is someone you know, but in that case, they’ll leave a voicemail Leaving Voicemails, and Other Prickish Phone Habits Leaving Voicemails, and Other Prickish Phone Habits Having private number on, leaving voice mails, not returning calls, or calling unnecessarily all ruin voice calls for the rest of us. Read More or a text.

The important thing is to keep a level head 10 Calming Apps to Destress & Clear Your Mind 10 Calming Apps to Destress & Clear Your Mind You are not alone if you have you ever felt stuck in your thoughts? Like you're trudging and not able to make any headway. Calming, thought-organizing apps can rescue the mind. Read More , even if you’ve listened to a message in which someone seems to be in trouble. And that really can be upsetting. Your mind will instantly flick through scary possibilities, forcing you to consider whether someone you know is hurt. Even if it’s someone you don’t know, how can you leave them in dire straits?

But it’s highly unlikely that, with a phone in their hand, they’d call a stranger. Why would they? They’d immediately call the emergency services Don't Be A Victim - Your Smartphone As A Personal Safety Device Don't Be A Victim - Your Smartphone As A Personal Safety Device Whether you're a man or a woman, visiting new places can introduce a long list of dangers that you are not aware even exists - especially if it's the first time you've ever been there.... Read More .

If the same number is really bugging you, consider blocking it How to Stop Annoying Telemarketers & Robocalls From Calling You How to Stop Annoying Telemarketers & Robocalls From Calling You Are you tired of being called by prerecorded messages and robots? Here's why that happens and what you can do to stop them. Read More — after checking with everyone you know that they’ve not changed their phone!

Wait, This All Sounds Familiar…

Well, yes, it would do. There’s always some sort of phone scam doing the rounds, but this one is an eerie constant.

It used to be known as the 900 scam, due to that area code being used, but once everyone realized they should ignore it, scammers changed to other premium numbers, notably 809, which was the code for the Caribbean Islands but is currently the Dominican Republic. In fact, you should still be wary of calls through a 809 number. Heck, there was even a time when scammers would send such messages to pagers.

This is merely the latest variation on the theme, and has been around for a few years — at least since 2014. It’ll evolve again, but for now, remember: don’t answer calls from the area code 473.

Have you ever received a scam call like this? Are there any further numbers to be wary of?

Image Credit: Alextypevia Shutterstock.com

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  1. Bert
    April 7, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    got s tech csll from 212 796 5619 to update win 10 drivers on my computer they wanted to take control of my machine remotely. Just hang up...

    • Philip Bates
      April 30, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Hadn't heard about that one - thanks for letting us know, Bert. Good call, just hanging up.

  2. Colin
    March 28, 2017 at 2:16 am

    Always thought the one ring, was from some drunken idiot. Now I know it might be a scam. See what happens when you only have basic phone, you save money.

    • Philip Bates
      April 30, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Well, to be fair, sometimes it might just be some drunkard! ;)