AREA CODE 809: JUST ANOTHER PHONE BILL SCAM

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By James Carlini

Area Code 809 Phone Scam

There are a lot of Emails going around on the internet warning people to watch out for any calls that say to return the call to a number inside of the 809 area code.  Some have said this is an exaggerated threat, but if you look closely, it isn’t.  This kind of scam happens.

Graphic Caution Phone ScamThis is a real threat and will cost you money and more importantly, time, if you get caught up in it.

The Email being circulated warns of calls coming in to be returned to a number in the 809 area code after being given some fictitious story that you need to take action and “you need to call now”.  Some have already been burned by this scam.  The Email goes on to say:

The charges afterward 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.

The 809 area code is a legitimate area code (located in the Dominican Republic), but there are several entities that are scamming calls originating out of that area code which will entangle you into a billing nightmare, if you get caught up in it.  These Email warnings started around 1996, but have just re-surfaced.  Evidently, the phony call centers are still doing business.

Here is a place where you can report any nuisance call and get it registered as spam:

http://www.numbercop.com/area.php?code=809

Here is another service for bad and abusive numbers:

http://800notes.com/

graphic dollar sign hot pink on purpose magazineTHE COST OF FIXING THE PROBLEM

This has not been the first time for scammers to use the efficient collection systems of the phone companies to make their money.  Years ago, the same type of scam happened to many who had pagers.  (It originated from more than just one area code.)

The scamming company would simply dial out to pagers and leave a number for them to call back.  Once the “victim” called back, they found it was just some information or other time waster so they hung up but the damage was already done.  By calling the number, they just racked up a charge.  It could be a flat charge of $25 or a charge-by-minute scheme where the trick would be to keep the caller on the line for as long as they could while charging $3-$6 a minute.  If the pagers were used by a large organization, chances are, whoever signing off on the phone bill would not even see the extra costs of dialing into a bogus call center.

Once you see this happening on your phone bill, you have to report it and tell them to take it off.  They won’t just “take it off” they will want you to contact the call center and tell them it is no longer legitimate (if it was ever legitimate in the first place).

AT&T recognizes that this is still occurring and has a page explaining what to do if you get caught up in this:

http://www.att.net/smartcontrols-809AreaCode

SNOPES says it is over-exaggerated as to what is charged on your phone bill.  One “warning” says it is over $2,400 a minute.  I have never heard of the scam costing that much, but I have seen where they have charged a flat charge (of $25 or $50) or a per-minute charge.

With all the automated phone-calling systems that have been out for years, setting up a scam like this is not that hard.  Robo-calling 1000’s of numbers in one day means I can set something like this up for one of two weeks, have it taken down in a week and just wait for the money to roll in.  By the time, people complain, I am set up somewhere else.

If you get hit with a scam like this, it may or may not come from an 809 area code.  One thing I can guarantee, it will take more than one short phone call to your phone company to get it taken off your bill.

CARLINI-ISM :   The Billing systems that were set up to collect for legitimate calls on the public switched telephone network can easily be set up to support scams and wholesale fleecing initiatives.  Beware.

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Copyright 2013 – James Carlini

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