OT-Phone scams involving Area Code 809

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[Category: Telecommunications]

I received this today. It concerns scams involving Dominican Republic Area Code 809, which apparently exploit its easily being mistaken for a toll-free area code.

The North American Numbering Plan Administration website lists all area codes and what they denote. The codes designated for toll-free calling are 800, 855, 866, 877 and 888. The alert follows:


This is pretty scary - especially given how 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!

SCAM: Don't Respond To Emails, Phone Calls, or Web Pages Which Tell You to Call An "809" Phone Number.

This can easily cost you $100 or more, and is difficult to avoid unless you are aware of it. We'd like to thank Paul Bruemmer and Brian Stains 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, but...


Permutation #1: Internet Based Phone Scam Via Email

You receive an email, typically with a subject line of "*ALERT*" or "Unpaid account."

The message, which is being spammed across the net, says: I am writing to give you a final 24 hrs to settle your outstanding account. If I have not received the settlement in full, I will commence legal proceedings without further delay. If you would like to discuss this matter to avoid court action, call Mike Murray at Global Communications on at 1-809-496-2700.

Permutation #2: Phone Or Pager Scam

You 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, or to let you know that you have won a wonderful prize, etc...

In each case, you're 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 $25 per-minute! Sometimes the person who answers the phone will speak broken English and pretend not to understand you. Other times, you'll just 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 $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 US 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 US phones have 900 number blocking to avoid these kinds of charges, 900 number blocking will not prevent 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, investigate further and/or disregard the message.

Be *very* wary of email or calls asking you to call an 809 area code 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 issue of Internet ScamBusters! To your friends, family and colleagues to help them become aware of this scam so they don't get ripped off.

-- David L (bumpkin@dnet.net), April 10, 2000



ScamBusters did not send that e-mail and the message contains some inaccuracies. You can go to http://www.scambusters.com/809Scam.html to see the real sccop on this.

-- Jim Cooke (JJCooke@yahoo.com), April 10, 2000.

Thank you, Jim. Funny, in looking up the territory for Area Code 809 (on the NANPA site), I noticed that it was given differently from the email (though in the vicinity), but I guess my knowledge of Carribean geography could use some improvement.

From scanning ScamBusters' site, it seems that the main misrepresentation in the piece I posted was the advice to "never" call Area Code 809. So I have only minimal egg to clean up.

-- David L (bumpkin@dnet.net), April 10, 2000.

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