And now the scammers are calling in the middle of the night—repeatedly.
A wave of what's called the "One Ring" phone scam has been waking up consumers at night and trying to prompt them into making a costly callback.
The Federal Communications Commission issued an alert Friday to warn consumers that they could be stuck paying expensive per minute toll charges similar to a 900 number, if they fall for this one and call back.
The charges may show up on your phone bill as premium services.
"For illegal robocallers, the goal isn't always getting you to answer. Sometimes, it's getting you to call back," the FCC warns.
Consumers are being warned that the scam calls are using the "222" country code of the west African nation of Mauritania. The widespread overnight calling has been particularly intense in the states of New York and Arizona.
It's also possible that the scammers may leave phony voice mail messages that claim you won a prize or have a sick relative who needs your help.
"We are not aware of such calls hitting Michigan area codes yet, but consumers should be aware of this scam and should not call back if they receive such calls," said Will Wiquist, FCC spokesman.
Locally, a few consumers report that they've had such calls early in the morning and late at night here, too. So the scam may be picking up steam across the country.
Here's how the scam works:
A robocalling device is used to call a number and then hang up quickly after a ring or two. But the caller may then call repeatedly, hoping the customer calls back and runs up a toll that's is paid to the scammer, the FCC said.
Remember, advances in technology make it easy to make massive robocalls fairly cheaply. Spoofing tools also make it easy for scammers to mask their true identity or appear to be someone else.
Consumer watchdogs note that the one-ring calls also may appear to be from phone numbers from somewhere in the United States, including three initial digits that resemble U.S. area codes. But savvy scammers often use international numbers from regions that begin with three-digit codes—for example, "649" goes to the Turks and Caicos and "809" goes to the Dominican Republic.
Such scammers may often use spoofing techniques, as well, to further mask the number in your caller ID display.
Best bets for protecting your money
n Do not call back numbers, especially if those numbers appear to originate overseas.
n Before calling unfamiliar numbers, check to see whether the area code is international.
n If you never make international calls, consider talking to your phone company about blocking outbound international calls to prevent accidental toll calls.
n Check your phone bill for charges you don't recognize.
n You can file a complaint with the FCC if you received these calls: www.fcc.gov/complaint. You can also call the FCC at 888-225-5322.
n By mail (be sure to include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible): Federal Communications Commission; Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau; Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division; 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554
n If you are billed for a call you made as a result of this scam, first try to resolve the matter with your telephone company. If you are unable to resolve it directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC at no cost.