Telecommunications

Telephone Scams

How to protect yourself from scams

Telephone Scams
809 Area Code. Do not respond to e-mail, phone calls, or web pages which tell you to call an "809" phone number unless you are anticipating the call.  This is a scam.  The area code is a valid area code for the Caribbean Islands.

The scam works in this manner.  You will typically receive a message on your answering machine or your pager, which asks you to call the 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, etc.  In each case, you are told to call the 809 number right away.  If you call from the U.S., you will be charged $2,425/per minute.  You will get a long recorded message and they will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible. 

Because the 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Island, the 809 area code can be used as a "pay-per-call" number.  There is no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged, as they are not bound by U.S. regulations of 900 numbers. 

Victims of this scam, who have tried to fight these charges, get little response from their local phone company.  They end up dealing with a foreign company that argues they have done nothing wrong.  They will assert that you did make the call and owe the charges.

It is recommended that no matter how you receive the message to call the 809 area code, do not return the call unless you recognize the phone number or are able to investigate the message further.  Be cautious of all area codes you do not recognize.

Service Technician.   A "service technician" may call you indicating that their company is completing testing on your telephone line.  You will be asked to assist the company by depressing your flashhook or transfer button and dialing a particular set of numbers along with the * or # key on your telephone keypad.  Refuse to assist them with this test and refer them to the Office of Business Services.  The dialing pattern they are asking you to complete may give them access to placing a long distance call and billing the charges to your phone number.  As a general rule, do not dial "9", "0", or the # or * key for anyone.