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Scam Artists Are Working out of Area Code 809, 284, or 876-Truth! & Fiction! 

 

 

 

Summary of eRumor
The email warns never to call area code 809, 284, or 876 because you could get charged $25 or more per minute for the call.  It goes on to describe various ways in which scam artists in the Virgin Islands are tricking people into returning their calls, then charging outrageous rates for making the call.  (Complete versions are below.)
 

The Truth
This is one of those eRumors that was wrong to begin with and has gotten even more confusing as it has circulated.  We'll try to unravel it.  

The bottom line is that you don't need to completely avoid calling area codes 809, 284, or 876, especially if you know who you are calling.  You do need to be suspicious about strange messages you might get that ask you to return a call to the Caribbean.

Here are the details:

1.  The original eRumor warned not to ever call area 809 and that if you did, you would be subject to outrageous charges from scam artists in the Virgin Islands.  Area 809 is a legitimate area code in the Caribbean, (which at the moment is the area code for the Dominican Republic), and there has never been any danger from  making a normal call to there.  There have been scam artists, however, that operated out of the Caribbean by leaving messages for people who, when they returned the call, were unknowingly dialing a number that automatically billed them extremely high charges.  That was the reason for the warning.  Folks were charged anywhere from $10 to $100 per minute and were kept on the line as long as possible.  Some of the messages asked for a voice call in return.  Some asked for information to be faxed.

2.  The original eRumor did quote Scambusters (www.scambusters.com), but they warn that the message picked up some wrong facts along the way and they are not the source for 
all of the information.

3.  Telephone companies have issued warnings to consumers in the United States about how easy it is to be dialing a Caribbean number without realizing that it's an international call and will cost more than a domestic call.  Normally, an international call from the U.S. is preceded by dialing "011."   The Caribbean calls are international, but with domestic looking area codes.

So what has happened is that the warning about the scam artists was turned into an unnecessary warning to never call area 809 and now the caution about being aware of the Caribbean area codes being international calls has been wrapped up with the story about the scam artists and turned into an unnecessary warning to never call 809, 284, or 876.

A real example of the story as it has been circulated:

Version #1  Subject: SPECIAL ALERT - DON'T EVER DIAL AREA CODE 809

This is pretty scary-especially given how they try to get you to call. Be sure you read this & pass it on to all your friends & family so they don't get scammed!

SCAM: Don't Respond To Emails, Phone Calls, Or Web Pages Which Tell You to Call An "809" Phone Number. 

This is a very important issue of Internet ScamBusters! Because it alerts you to a scam that is spreading *extremely* quickly - can easily cost you $100 or more, and - is difficult to avoid unless you are aware of it.  

This scam has also been identified by the National Fraud Information Center and is costing victims a lot of money. 

There are lots of different permutations of this scam, but HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:

Permutation #1: Internet Based Phone Scam Via Email You receive an email, typically with a subject line of "*ALERT*" or "Unpaid account." The message, which is being spammed across the net, says: I am writing to give you a final 24hrs to settle your outstanding account.. If I have not received the settlement in full, I will commence legal proceedings without further delay. If you would like to discuss this matter to avoid court action, call Mike Murray at Global Communications on at 1-809-496-2700.

Permutation #2: Phone Or Pager Scam You receive a message on your answering machine or your pager which asks you to call a number beginning with area code 809. The reason you're asked to call varies: it can be to receive information about a family member who has been ill, to tell you someone has been arrested, died, to let you know you have won a wonderful prize, etc.

In each case, you're told to call the 809 number right away Since there are so many new area codes these days, people unknowingly return these calls.

If you call from the US, you will apparently be charged $25 per-minute!  Sometimes the person who answers the phone will speak broken English and pretend not to understand you. Other times, you'll just get a long recorded message. The point is, they will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges. Unfortunately, when you get your phone bill, you'll often be charged more than $100.00.

HERE'S WHY IT WORKS: The 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Islands (the Bahamas). The 809 area code can be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900 numbers in the US. Since 809 is not in the US, it is not covered by US regulations of 900 numbers, which require that you be notified and warned of charges and rates involved when you call a "pay-per-call" number. There is also no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged. Further, whereas many US phones have 900 number blocking to avoid these kinds of charges, 900 number blocking will not prevent calls to the 809 area code. 

We recommend that no matter how you get the message, if you are asked to call a number with an 809 area code that you don't recognize, investigate further and/or disregard the message.

Be *very* wary of email or calls asking you to call an 809 area code number. it's important to prevent becoming a victim of this scam, since trying to fight the charges afterwards can become a real nightmare. That's because you did actually make the call. If you complain, both our local phone company and your long distance carrier will not want to get involved and will most likely tell you that they are simply providing the billing for the foreign company. You'll end up dealing with a foreign company that argues they have done nothing wrong.

Please forward this entire issue of Internet ScamBusters! To your friends, family and colleagues to help them become aware of this scam so they don't get ripped off.
Version #2

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION PROVIDED BY AT&T. DON'T EVER DIAL AREA
CODE 809, 284, or 876

This one is being distributed all over the US. This is pretty scary, especially given the way they try to get you to call. Be sure you read this and pass it on to all your friends and family so they don't get scammed!

MAJOR SCAM:
Don't respond to Emails, phone calls, or web pages which tell you to call an "809", "284", or "876" Phone Numbers. This is a very important issue of ScamBusters because it alerts you to a scam that is spreading *extremely*quickly can easily cost you $2400 or more, and is difficult to avoid unless you are aware of it. We'd like to thank Verizon for bringing this scam to our attention. This scam has also been identified by the
National Fraud Information Center and is costing victims a lots of money. There are lots of different permutations of this scam.

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:
You will receive a message on your answering machine or your pager, which asks you to call a number beginning with area code 809. The reason you're asked to call varies. It can be to receive information about a family member who has been ill, to tell you someone has been arrested, died, to let you know you have won a wonderful prize, etc. In each case, you are told to call the 809 number right away. Since there are so many new area codes these days, people unknowingly return these calls.

If you call from the US, you will apparently be charged $2425 per-minute. Or, you'll get a long recorded message. The point is, they will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges. Unfortunately, when you get your phone bill, you'll often be charged more than $24100.00.

WHY IT WORKS:
The 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Islands (The Bahamas). The 809 area code can be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900 numbers in the US. Since 809 is not in the US, it is not covered by U.S.
regulations of 900 numbers, which require that you be notified and warned of charges and rates involved when you call a pay-per-call" number. The 284 and 876 area codes are also located in the Caribbean.

There is also no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged. Further, where as many U.S. homes that have 900 number blocking to avoid these kinds of charges, do not work in preventing calls to the 809, 284, and 876 area codes.

We recommend that no matter how you get the message, if you are asked to call a number with 809, 284, or 876 area codes that you don't recognize just disregard the message. Be wary of email or calls asking you to call an 809 area code number. It's important to prevent becoming a victim of this scam, since trying to fight the charges afterwards can become a real nightmare. That's because you did actually make the call. If you complain, both your local phone company and your long distance carrier will not want to get involved and will most likely tell you that they are simply providing the billing for the foreign company. You'll end up dealing with a foreign company that argues they have done nothing wrong.

Please forward this entire message to your friends, family and colleagues to help them become aware of this scam.

Sandi Van Handel
AT&T Field Service Manager
(920) 687-904
Additional information can be obtained from the following AT&T Web Site
http://www.att.com/fraud/home.html#thre/s/
<http://www.att.com/fraud/home.html#thre/s/>   (Links may be dead)

 

 


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