While area code 473 may appear to be domestic, it is not. This area code was created in the late 1990s for the islands of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique, which, like the United States, use country code 1. Calls placed to 473 numbers are international calls and can be quite expensive and, because the criminals sometimes establish the number which the victim sees on his or her caller ID as a premium service number the rate can exceed $20 for the first minute.
473 is not the only area code from which this scam has been perpetrated. Beware calls coming in from area codes 809, 284, 649 and 876, which like 473 are international, and are known to have been used for similar scams. Of course, if you do not have a calling plan that includes calls to Canada, there are many other area codes for which you could be billed international dialing rates, but so-called one ring, ring and run, or dial and disconnect scams are not typically perpetrated using Canadian numbers.
If you have voicemail as pretty much everyone does today there is usually no reason to call back missed calls from numbers that you do not recognize, regardless of the area code from which they originated. If a caller has something important to say, he or she can leave a message identifying himself or herself (or send you a text message). Dont let curiosity get the best of you.
Ring and run scams are not new; when 900 numbers and pagers were popular in the days before the proliferation of the Internet and cell phones (its hard to believe that was less than a generation ago), criminals would page people asking them to return calls to such numbers. Eventually, people learned not to call back anyone with a 900 number. Likewise, until shortly before the turn of the century, the Caribbean islands using the American country code 1 all used the same area code, 809; scams were perpetrated, but, after a while, people learned to avoid calling that single area code. The latest crop of scams exploits the advances in technology the implementation of many new area codes makes it difficult for most people to recognize what is a domestic number and what is not, and the proliferation of cellphones (rather than pagers) means that sounds of trouble can be played to victims, exploiting their caring about others in distress.
The criminals new tactic reinforces the need for people to be aware of international area codes within the US country code of 1 after all, how difficult would it be for criminals to leave a voicemail claiming to be a collection agency, doctor, police department, or other real sounding party and ask the recipient to call back at some domestic-sounding, but international, phone number? How many people would likely fall prey to such a scam?
While 809, 473, 284, 649 and 876, may be the primary sources of the current danger, here is a list of (non-Canadian) area codes that are international. All but a few are relatively new, having been split off from 809 in the late 1990s.