NTT DoCoMo, Inc. and its eight regional subsidiaries announced today new countermeasures to combat the problem of companies calling mobile phones and then hanging up after one ring in a scam to solicit business.
Under the scam, known in Japanese as “wangiri,” a computer dials a phone number and then hang ups automatically after one ring, thus leaving the number stored in the receiving party’s mobile phone. If the phone’s user sees the call listed in their incoming call log and unwittingly returns the call, they are connected to a sales tape soliciting business. Some companies use the scam to call thousands of numbers selected at random, creating a growing nuisance for DoCoMo customers.
DoCoMo and its regional companies have already advised customers not to return calls from unknown numbers. Nevertheless, customers are being bombarded with unwanted calls, necessitating the introduction of the special new countermeasures.
1) DoCoMo will offer a new ringing tone that remains silent during the first ring of an incoming call, which effectively means that the customer’s phone will not ring in the case of an incoming “wangiri” call. The tone will be offered for i-mode compatible mobile phones (excluding the 501i series and the NM502i handset) and can be downloaded (transmission charge applies) via i-mode phones by accessing the i-menu or www.nttdocomo.co.jp/imode/. The download will be available sometime in September.
2) As another option, customers will be encouraged to use the “step-tone” feature available in most DoCoMo phones. With “step-tone,” the phone remains silent during the first ring, then gradually raises the ringing volume with subsequent rings. DoCoMo will publicize the advantage of using this feature through its website and in monthly bills mailed to customers from September.
3) DoCoMo will begin equipping phones with a feature that informs the customer of how long each incoming call rings, thereby helping the customer to determine if an incoming call (1-2 seconds) from an unknown phone number might be a “wangiri” call. Phones equipped with the new feature will be marketed from this fall.
4) Customers will also be able to block “wangiri” calls by using their mobile phones to register up to 19 offending telephone numbers on a dedicated network of DoCoMo. If subsequent calls are placed from the registered number to the customer, the network will intercept the call and play a tape informing the caller that the receiving party will not accept the call. The service will start in late October and will be available for all DoCoMo phones except FOMA and PHS.