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Missed a call? 'One-ring' cell phone scam could cost you money

Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, in New York, NY (John Makely / NBC News) iPhone spam phone call
\"One-ring\" scam victims who return the missed call from a mystery number find themselves connected to — and charged for — an \"adult entertainment\" line. iPhone spam phone callJohn Makely / NBC News

If you pick up your phone and see a missed call from a number you don't recognize, you may want to think twice about calling back.

You could be a potential victim of the growing "one-ring phone scam," which the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned consumers about last week. As in most phone-based scams, the perpetrators use auto-dialing computer programs to call phones all over the country.

In this case, the scammers let the phone ring once — just enough to cause a missed call message to pop up on victims' phones — and then hang up. Victims who call the number back are connected to a paid "adult entertainment service" located overseas.

Those unlucky callers are generally charged a $19.95 international call fee up front, plus $9 or more per minute for the unwanted "service." (In some cases the scammers charge only a few bucks to the victim's bill to avoid suspicion.)

The BBB said the scam calls usually come from outside the United States, including from numbers with area codes 268, 809, 876, 284 and 473.

The BBB recommended that consumers ignore incoming or missed calls from out-of-state phone numbers that they don't recognize, and carefully check cell phone bills.

If you're really tempted to call back that number, at least pop the digits into Google first. Sites like track complaints and questions about calls from specific numbers, while other online directories can tell in which town and state the phone number is registered.

Julianne Pepitone is a senior technology writer for NBC News Digital. Previously she was a staff writer at CNNMoney, where she covered large tech companies including Apple and Google, as well as the intersection of tech and media. Follow Julianne on Twitter at @julpepitone or email her at