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7,100 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
From this mornings email, be alert to:

Subject: 809 Area Code

We actually received a call last week from the 809 area code. The woman
said "Hey, this is Karen. Sorry I missed you--get back to us quickly. Have
something important to tell you." Then she repeated a phone number
beginning with 809. We did not respond.

Then this week, we received the following email:

Subject: DON'T EVER DIAL AREA CODE 809, 284 AND 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!

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

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.


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 $24,100.00.

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 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.

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 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 war! y 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

6,843 Posts
Actually there are 19 different area codes for the Caribbean. Except for U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, this scam might originate from any of them. There should be a list of area codes by state, Canada and the Caribbean in the front of your telephone book.

You can protect yourself by having a stand-by long-distance calling card. A pay-per-call like this would quickly use up the amount on it. Also, if AT&T were to insist on payment, cancel their service and go with someone else. Let them take you to court for non-payment of the charges. I suspect if given the alternative of your dropping the service, they may back-out the charge.

Ken S. in WC TN

This kind of thing is easy to deal with. Any strange number, look it up in one of the internet phone books. I do it with all numbers I'm not familiar with up front.

Any stranger leaving such a vague message on our machine wouldn't get the time of day.... And if someone were ill, or dead, you call the business line of the local police department, or the hospitals.

Thanks for the heads-up. I can imagine this will be even more of headache for cell phone users since most of them can't keep off the phone for more than 10 seconds at a time (ooh, ooh, I just gotta call this person back)....:)

1,436 Posts
Another solution is to have your phone permanently blocked for all area codes outside of the continental United States. I cant remember the last time I had to call Madagascar or Schlieswig-Holstein, so its not much of an inconvenience. Good solution if you have a baby or child that likes to play with the phone.

Premium Member
9,287 Posts
BCR said:
Go to! This one is TRUE!


There are very many false statements in the email - ATT has nothing to do with it, the area code is not for the country listed, and the billing amount is totally made up. So I wouldn't call it _true_.

However, there is a kernal of truth in that some scams come from the various islands of these many area codes, and they can bill you more by the minute on return phone calls.


71 Posts
rambler said:

There are very many false statements in the email - ATT has nothing to do with it, the area code is not for the country listed, and the billing amount is totally made up. So I wouldn't call it _true_.

However, there is a kernal of truth in that some scams come from the various islands of these many area codes, and they can bill you more by the minute on return phone calls.

How do the collect?

1,026 Posts
Fair Use: For information purposes this is copied from Urban Legends. Decide for yourself.

Origins: Yes,
this scam is real, but four important pieces of information to keep in mind are:

Not every phone number in the 809 area code is part of this scam, and calling such a number will not necessarily result in exorbitantly large charges on your phone bill. Most 809 numbers are ordinary, legitimate phone numbers.

This scam has been used with other area codes besides 809.

The amounts of money involved have been greatly exaggerated as this warning has circulated on the Internet over the past several years.

This scam is not very common; the average U.S. resident is unlikely to ever encounter it.
The scheme preys upon U.S. and Canadian residents unfamiliar with the complexities of the phone system (which is most of us). We expect when we place to a call a standard area code + exchange + phone number combination (e.g., 213-555-1212), we're calling a person or entity located in the U.S. or Canada — connections outside those countries requiring the caller to first enter a country code, then a number generally different in format from the standard we're used to. However, some foreign territories and countries (such as the Dominican Republic or the British Virgin Islands) have also been assigned area codes, and therefore their phone numbers look like the "standard" phone numbers we're used to. Scammers use a variety of schemes to dupe North Americans into calling these numbers by sending messages to pagers, fax machines, e-mail addresses, or answering machines, accompanied by notifications that the recipients need to call or fax them back because:

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-up procedure 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 places a call, he is connected to a fax machine, lengthy recorded message, or a pay-per-call service with a hefty up-front fee, all intended to keep him on the line as long as possible while the clock ticks and the charges mount. The scammer's foreign phone company then bills the victim via his local phone company, splitting the monies collected with the scammers and leaving the victim little or no recourse since the foreign phone company operates outside U.S. jurisidiction and is therefore not subject to U.S. laws (especially regulations requiring the operators of pay-per-call services notify callers in advance how much they will be charged for each call and offer them an opportunity to hang up without incurring any charges).

As mentioned above, the amounts of money involved in these scams have 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 be taken for $25 to $100, but not thousands of dollars. This scheme works a variety of Caribbean area codes, not just the 809 area code mentioned above (which now belongs exclusively to the Dominican Republic, the British Virgin Islands having switched to 284), but 809 seems to work especially well because many people associate it with toll-free 800 numbers and believe they will incur no charges for calling such a number. This scam took off when the government cracked down on domestic 900-number abuses several years ago, but it isn't especially common any more, and most consumer watchdog organizations report they receive far, far more calls from people concerned about the e-mailed warnings than from actual victims.

Alerts have been been posted at the site of the National Fraud Information Center alerting businessmen especially to "faxback" solicitations employing the "809" callback trick (such as one sprung on a newspaper that received a call from entities representing a purported hotel developer in the Dominican Republic asking for advertising rate quotes and claiming that "start-up pressures prevent us at this time from using the mails" to request rate cards).
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