Nairobi News

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Phone scam: This is what happens when you call back that foreign number

Thousands of Kenyans have in recent weeks been receiving missed calls from foreign numbers.

Unknown to many, the one-ring phone calls are part of an elaborate phone scam syndicate meant to harvest airtime from unsuspecting users.

This is how it works. When you call back that missed call from a foreign number, it will drain away your airtime. The scammers have a way of deducting a lot of airtime by highly billing people who call them back.

The scam has in the past been reported in other countries, with Irish Times newspaper at one time publishing a piece on what happens when one calls back a Liberian scam number.


In that newspaper’s experiment, the call was received and a recorded female voice speaking in Arabic heard.

The billing of that call was exorbitant and the reporter advised users not to call back those foreign numbers.

At Nairobi News, we carried out a similar experiment with a number bearing the Somalia code (+252). The call went through and was redirected to a machine voice in an unfamiliar language.

In one minute, sh30 had been deducted from our airtime. Much as the Safaricom rates to Somali are sh30 a minute, our call never yielded any information.


Other numbers that Kenyans have been receiving missed calls bear a Switzerland country code (+41), India (+91) and Syria (+963).

According to Irish Times; “The scam, commonly known as Wangiri fraud, sees scammers use phone numbers bought on the dark web (where criminals trade in illegal goods and services) to dial phone users in other countries and then immediately disconnect the calls to them. The aim of the scam is to encourage those who see a missed call on their phone to ring the number, after which they will be ripped off.”

If you see any missed calls from those numbers, do not call back as your airtime will pay for it dearly.