Scam: Unsuspecting phone customers are gulled into placing calls to area codes in the Caribbean that result in hefty charges.
MIXTURE OF TRUE, FALSE, AND OUTDATED INFORMATION
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2000]
DON’T EVER DIAL AREA CODE 809
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 & pass it on to all your friends & family so they don’t get scammed! Don’t respond to Emails, phone calls, or web pages which tell you to call an
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
If you call from the US, you will apparently be charged $2,425 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 $24,100.00.
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
Origins: Although the basics of the “809 area code” scam were once real, this item has also become one of the most relentlessly overpublicized instances of online scarelore, with dire warnings all out of proportion to the scam’s rate of occurrence and potential for damage having continuously circulated on the Internet for the better part of a decade.
Specifically, four important pieces of information to note about this scam are:
- Not every phone number in the
809 areacode is part of this scam, and calling such a number will not necessarily result in exorbitantly large charges on your phone bill. Most numbers within the 809 areacode are ordinary, legitimate phone numbers within the Dominican Republic.
- This scam has been used with other area codes besides 809.
- The amounts of money involved have become greatly exaggerated as this warning has circulated on the Internet.
- This scam is no longer very common, and the average U.S. resident is unlikely to ever encounter it.
The scheme preyed upon U.S. and Canadian residents unfamiliar with the complexities of the phone system back when North American area codes were first assigned to outlying territories. Most North American residents at the time expected that when they placed a call to
a standard area code
- They have won sweepstakes or lottery prizes they must call to claim.
- A family member is desperately ill or injured.
- A bill or credit card debt is past due and needs to straightened out immediately to avoid collection action or an endangered credit rating.
- They are being offered solicitations to become “mystery shoppers” who will be well compensated for a few hours work per day. (The “applicants” are kept on the phone through a lengthy
sign-upprocedure that never results in anyone’s getting a job.)
- They are being considered for employment and must transmit lengthy forms covering quotations on proposed jobs or information about their services and prices.
Once the victim placed a call, he was typically connected to a fax machine, lengthy recorded message, or a
therefore not subject to
As mentioned above, the amounts of money involved in these scams has been greatly exaggerated (probably by computer-introduced transcription errors) to the point that readers are now warned they may be charged more than $2,400 per minute if they fall for this scam! Actually, a victim might realistically have been taken for $25 or so, but not thousands of dollars (and in most cases customers can now get
such charges removed from their bills by contacting their phone service providers). This scheme has been worked with a variety of Caribbean area codes, not just the
Warnings have been posted at the site of the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC) alerting businessmen especially to “faxback” solicitations employing the
The Better Business Bureau strongly recommends that no matter how consumers are approached, if they are asked to respond to an
Barbara “(what a) sorry wrong number!” Mikkelson
Last updated: 26 June 2013
Booth, Michael. “New Warnings on ‘809’ Scams, But E-Mails Could Harbor Errors.” Denver Post. 22 February 2001 (p. B2). Broten, Doug. “Beware of the Telephone Call You Never Answered.” The Fresno Bee. 25 August 1997 (p. C2). Douglass, Elizabeth. “If 809 Code Sounds Foreign to You, That’s Because It Is.” Los Angeles Times. 16 November 2000 (p. T3). Fineman, Mark. “Telecom Firms Cash in on Dominican Gift of Gab.” Los Angeles Times. 20 December 1997 (p. A1). Lazzareschi, Carla. “An Epidemic of Fraud Spreads Via Telephones Telemarketing.” Los Angeles Times. 7 July 1992 (p. A1). Luttrell, Martin. “Customers Warned of Pay-Per-Call Telephone Scam.” [Worcester] Telegram & Gazette. 5 April 2001 (p. B4). Oldenburg, Don. “Just the Facts, Spam!” The Washington Post. 14 February 2001 (p. C4). Parker, Jim. “‘Island’ Job Scams Business.” The [Charleston] Post and Courier. 29 August 1997 (p. B7). Stoltzfus, Duane. “Dial-a-Scam — Hanging Up on Phone Fraud.” The [Bergen County] Record. 14 September 1992. Zorn, Eric. “Dialing 809 Can Exact a Stiff Toll on Your Pocketbook.” Chicago Tribune. 19 November 1996 (Metro; p. 1). Zawislak, Mick. “809 Phone Scam Real, But Effects Exaggerated.” Chicago Daily Herald. 18 July 2001 (p. 6). Los Angeles Times.. “Toll-Call Profiteers Make Use of Foreign Connections.” 15 May 1995 (p. A3).