Do you use the iOS apps for Google+, Gmail, Facebook Messenger or any other messaging service? Then you could be at risk from this tricky scam.
Apple has a special feature for apps that lets them make phone calls when you tap a link. Other than that tap, however, you don't need to confirm that you want to make a call.
Unfortunately, a programmer can make the link say anything they want. That means a scammer could email, message or post a link to social media claiming to be something you might want to see.
Once they trick you into tapping on the link, your phone will call a premium phone number the scammer has set up. When the number picks up, you'll be automatically billed for the call.
On the plus side, you will see the iOS dialer screen come up when this happens. If you're fast enough, you can end the call before the scammer's phone picks up, but if you aren't sure what is happening you might not make it in time.
As usual, your best bet is to think hard before tapping any unsolicited link in any email, message or app. If you want to open a link, tap and hold it until you see the option to copy the link.
Then open up the iOS browser, Safari, and paste the link there. Unlike apps, Safari will warn you if a link you load is trying to make a phone call. You can stop it before it starts.
Note: Even though tapping a link in an app looks like it opens Safari, it's a special app version. You want to open Safari manually and paste the link to make sure you're getting the right one.
Be aware that a similar attack can be used to fire up Facetime automatically. That would let a hacker could grab a few seconds of video from your phone's camera before you could close the app. That's why it's a good idea to keep your front-facing camera covered unless you're actually using it.
This isn't a problem that's likely to be fixed anytime soon, because that's the way apps are supposed to work. So, it's a good idea to get into these habits for the foreseeable future.
For even more ways to protect yourself from mobile threats, check out my Security Center.