New telephone scam: Foreign area codes can cost $2,425 a minute

June 20, 2001
Santa Paula News

A new scam that can skirt around the law can be costly, up to $2,400 a minute to be exact, with an influx of toll-free numbers registered in a foreign country, according to a Santa Paula Police official.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesA new scam that can skirt around the law can be costly, up to $2,400 a minute to be exact, with an influx of toll-free numbers registered in a foreign country, according to a Santa Paula Police official.And, whatever you do, don’t dial any number that starts with 809, no matter what reason you are given. There are other numbers to be leery of as well.Sgt. Carlos Juarez said Verizon has been alerting banks about the new phone scam, where all you have to do is dial a number: in addition, it has been reported that the number has been popping up on e-mail and Web sites.Scam Busters, a national organization that charts and exposes scams, noted in a press release that the scam is moving quickly and could easily cost those who fall for it a mind-boggling $24,000 or more that would surface on the phone bill. The scam has also been identified by the National Fraud Information Center.The way the scam works is that the victim receives an answer machine or pager message which asks that the 809 number be called: the reason why varies, from receiving information on an ill - or suddenly deceased - family member, to winning a prize.Whatever the reason, the victim is told to call the number immediately. Since there are so many new area codes these days, the victims unknowingly return the call.The charge? A hefty $2,425 a minute, which sometimes gets the victim just a long recorded message or the scam artist will try to keep the victim on the phone as long as possible.
The 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Islands - the Bahamas - and since it is outside the United States, it is not covered by U.S. regulations which require that any “pay per minute” call be clearly identified when the number is first reached so if the caller desires they can hang up. Call blocking service available in the U.S. does not cover the fraudulent area codes.Trying to fight the charges - no matter how fraudulent the message - can be a nightmare as U.S. phone service providers will most likely tell you there are just the billing agent for the call.And it’s getting worse: area codes 242, 246, 264, 268, 284, 345, 441, 473, 664, 758, 767, 784, 787, 868, 869 and 876 have also surfaced as scam area codes.“We’re seeing an increasing number of scams over the phone and Internet,” said Sgt. Juarez. Identity theft is also a rising problem, he added, so people “must be more aware. . .if you get a message saying you won a fabulous prize, remember that old saying: if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.”An emergency message with an unfamiliar area code should be double checked with your telephone service provider. “Obviously, people are going to be a little clouded by an emergency issue and would want to call right away, but they should slow down and research to see what might be happening and keep a cool head.”Victims can just shun the telephone bill of course, but they risk ruining their credit. “Being duped into doing something by fraudulent means would be disputable but can you imagine trying to fight that with a company in another country.”And Sgt. Juarez is asking that those who now have knowledge of this scam tell others. “Spread the word, makes others aware about anything that might harm others.”



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