Since mid-December, Sharon Leamy has received as many as 15 calls a day from international phone numbers, all part of a call-back scam commonly known as Wangiri fraud.
“It started December 16 — I started getting calls from strange numbers that I didn’t identify and they were just constant,” she said.
“I would block them and as soon as I blocked them, I would get a new call from a different country.”
Leamy said the calls became so frequent, she thought the only way to stop them was to call back and have them remove her number.
“I called the number thinking I could get them to take them off this calling list,” she said.
“There was a woman speaking very softly – almost in an apologetic tone and in a foreign language – she kept talking and talking and talking. I realized at that point that this was a scam.”
Leamy called her phone company and they informed her that she had been charged $10 for a 10-second phone call.
“There doesn’t seem to be any boundaries. They call and wake me up in the morning and I have had to learn to turn my phone off at night,” she said.
Phone companies have issued warnings about unknown numbers calling clients as part of the scam.
Jessica Gunson, acting call centre and intake unit manager with Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, said people in different provinces have reported similar scams but there are ways charges can be avoided.
“The best way to avoid it is simply not to answer or call back a number you don’t recognize,” she said.
“If you do see a charge on your account, the very first call should be to your phone provider and have an open dialogue with them and provide as much information to them as you can.”
Gunson said incidents can also be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s website.
Leamy said she reported 15 phone numbers to the RCMP, who are investigating, and her phone company has refunded her money, but she wants people to be aware when receiving calls from unfamiliar numbers.
“I want to protect people who don’t identify the evil,” she said.
“Don’t call back those numbers.”
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