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Warning - Don't call area code 809...


Old 05-20-2002, 12:34 PM
Uncle Toys
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Default Warning - Don't call area code 809...

I just got this from our tech people and I called them to be sure the email wasnt a virus email. Suppose to be the real deal. Good luck.

Due to a recent influx of fraudulent calls from Bermuda/Puerto Rico in the United States, AT&T has reissued the following warning.

Subject: Warning for Area Code 809 Calls




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!


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 Scam Busters 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 lot of money. There are lots of different permutations of this scam.

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 or 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 U.S., 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.

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 U.S. Since 809 is not in the U.S., 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.

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 U.S. homes that have 900 number blocking to avoid these kinds of charges, do not work in preventing 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, 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
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Old 05-20-2002, 12:46 PM
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Sorry to say this is incorrect. I am in the long distance business and 809 is not a pay per call number.

You can only be charged the tarriffed amount stated by your long distance carrier. Such as 15 cents per minute.

I have seen this before. No truth to it at all.

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Old 05-20-2002, 01:01 PM
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I heard the same...one of those "Urban Legends."
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Old 05-20-2002, 01:09 PM
Uncle Toys
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Ron – I just called our tech person who sent out this email. She put me in touch with our rep at ATT. Talked to her for 10 minutes and she was fairly insistant that the email is correct. I couldn’t get her to stop talking tech speak, so most of it was over my head. But she said it had something to do with calling overseas where the tarrif structure could be different and with going outside your system and having an operator assisted call. Here is a web site she mentioned: www.att.com/fraud/home.html#thre/s/ Would be interesting to hear what you think (if you have the time).
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Old 05-20-2002, 01:28 PM
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urban legand or not, I know that if you ever get a call that asks you to punch in some numbers, DON'T DO IT! Here's my story: I got this phone call at 2 o'clock in the morning. Some guy on the other end was asking me to punch in a number so he could do a "service check". I hung up. The next night, I got another call. I hung up again. This time I punched *69 to get his phone number. I called the number, but the line was set up NOT to accept incoming calls. However, the message did give me the name of the prison that I was trying to call. I called directory assistance and got the correct number for the jail. Called them up and gave 'em hell. Apparently the switch board has the ability to turn the pay phones off and it hadn't been done. She was also able to block my number so that nobody from that jail would ever call me again. The thing that really pissed me off, was that a inmate would actually have pay phone access at 2 am!
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Old 05-20-2002, 02:34 PM
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I agree that if you make an operator assisted call then almost anything can happen becuase you may not be using your normal carrier. However if you dial 1 809xxx xxxx then your own carrier an no one else can bill you for the call.
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Old 05-20-2002, 02:34 PM
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I don't care what the phone company says- They are part of the problem for allowing the fraud to be carried on by them. If they told the scam artists that they wouldn't collect more than the standard costs then there wouldn't be any more scams. I would hold them responsible.
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Old 05-20-2002, 03:17 PM
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Reprinted from Internet ScamBusters Issue #34
September 16, 1999
We recently discovered that an issue of Internet ScamBusters - written in 1996 - has resurfaced and is being sent around the Net as spam. This email is about the 809 area code scam, and the "revised" version contains some important mistakes. It is being sent around as if it comes from Internet ScamBusters.

In this issue, we'll correct the mistakes and give you an update on how this scam has changed - and not changed - in the past three years.

We thought this is important for you for two reasons. First, the 809 scam is still thriving, so it's still important to protect yourself. Second, this kind of problem - where an email or e-zine you write is changed and then sent around as spam with you as the supposed author - could happen to you as well, and we'll present some ideas about what to do if this does happen to you.

If you're wondering how we found out about this problem, we discovered it in two ways. First, we simply received a copy of one of the emails from a customer. Second, we visit <http://groups.google.com/> every couple of weeks to see what is being said about us and Internet ScamBusters in the newsgroups. We discovered that there has been a lively thread about this topic in the alt.folklore.urban newsgroup. It has also been discussed in the rec.arts.sf.fandom, alt.books.david-weber, rec.autos.makers.jeep+willys, and several other newsgroups.
Before we get to the mistakes and changes people made to our issue of Internet ScamBusters, here is a brief review of the 809 scam:

The "809" scam has many permutations but they all involve a message to you (either by email, phone or pager) that you immediately call or fax a number in the "809" area code or some other area code in the Caribbean. Examples of why you should call or fax the phone number include avoiding litigation, receiving information about someone who has been arrested or died, winning a wonderful prize, or getting a job.

The "809" area code is in the Caribbean, yet most people are not aware that they are making an international call when they dial the "809" area code, since you simply dial 1-809-xxx-xxxx to make the call. No international codes are required.

The problem comes from the fact that some phone numbers in the "809" area code are "pay-per-call" numbers (such as 900 numbers in the US) - but there are no legal requirements that callers be informed that they are being charged extra in the Caribbean. When you return one of these "pay-per-call" 809 calls, the scamsters try to keep you on the phone as long as possible, and you may be charged very high rates for the call, reportedly up to $25 per minute.

It is difficult to get credit for these charges if you do get scammed since you did make the call, and resolving the problem involves getting credit from international phone companies.

Since there are now many area codes in the Caribbean, this scam is no longer confined to just the 809 area code.

You can see the original issues about the 809 scam at <http://www.scambusters.org/ScamBusters8.html> and <http://www.scambusters.org/ScamBusters9.html>

OK, enough introduction. Now let's look at the mistakes in the new emails and posts about this topic:

Mistake: The beginning of the email says: "DO NOT EVER DIAL AREA CODE 809."

Comment: This is not our recommendation and we never wrote this. Most phone numbers in the 809 area code are legitimate.

Mistake: "Please forward this entire issue of Internet ScamBusters! to all your friends, family and colleagues to help them become aware of this scam so they don't get ripped off."

Comment: We never asked people to send the issue to everyone they know. This type of request is typical of spam, which we are very against. (We have asked subscribers to invite friends who would be interested to subscribe if they like Internet ScamBusters, but that's VERY different from everyone you know.) Please don't forward the bogus email message to anyone if you receive it. Just hit the delete key.

Mistake: The 809 area code is new.

Comment: The 809 area code is not new, and we never stated it was. It has been around for many years.

Mistake: Some spam versions of this email say that charges can be as high as $10,000.

Comment: This, of course, is very unlikely. We suggest charges might be as high as $100. $10,000 would mean the scamsters succeeded in keeping people on the phone for many, many hours.

Mistake: The new emailed version also includes a mistake in our first issue, which we corrected the second issue. We had mistakenly written: "The 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Islands (the Bahamas)."

Comment: Obviously, the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas are not the same country.

Update on the 809 Scam

There are a number of changes that have occurred involving the 809 scam since we wrote about this in Internet ScamBusters three years ago.

Area codes have changed in many of the countries. Now, 809 is just for the Dominican Republic. For example, 242 is the area code for the Bahamas, 284 is for the British Virgin Islands, and 787 is for Puerto Rico. You can find all the new area codes at <http://www.lincmad.com/caribbean.html>. Or you can go to AT&T <http://www.att.com/traveler/tools/codes.html> and look up any area code in the world.

You can also find area code maps of various regions in .pdf format at the North American Numbering Plan Administration site <http://www.nanpa.com/number_resource...code_maps.html>.

We have not been able to verify if charges are still as high as $25 per minute. It may be that the price today is significantly lower.

We spoke with Mr. Chavez at AT&T on September 12, 1999. He said that there have not been any changes lately regarding Caribbean area codes or scams that he is aware of. We have learned that AT&T did put out a bulletin that this scam continues to thrive. You can read their alert here. <http://www.att.com/fraud/home.html>.

We'd also heard there are now new related scams using the prefixes 500 and 700. These prefixes can be used for adult entertainment and for pay per call numbers. Some of these numbers are in the country Vanuatu. Mr. Chavez confirmed this.

You can learn more about this scam at:
Better Business Bureau <http://www.bbb.org/alerts/areacode.asp> (1997)
National Fraud Information Center <http://www.fraud.org/news/subject/900ind.htm>
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