Beware of Area Code Scams That Can Cost You Big Bucks

Beware of Area Code Scams That Can Cost You Big Bucks

A recent email warned against the use of the 809 area code and indicated that calling that number from the U.S or Canada could cost you $2,425 per minute! I couldn't verify that, but it resulted in a call to AT&T, which the email said "verifies it's true."

The AT&T contact resulted in the following statement, under the heading 809 Area Code Scam:

This long distance phone scam causes consumers to inadvertently incur high charges on their phone bills. Consumers usually receive a message telling them to call a phone number with an 809, 284, 649 or 876 area code in order to collect a prize, find out information about a sick relative, etc. The caller assumes the number is a typical three-digit U.S. area code, however the caller is actually connected to  phone number outside the United States, often in Canada or the Caribbean, and is charged international rates. Unfortunately, consumers don't find out that they have been charged higher international call rates until they receive their bill.

AT&T recommends the following tips to help avoid the 809 area code scam:

  • ​​Return calls to familiar numbers only. As a general rule, return calls from numbers that contain familiar or recognizable area codes.  You may call your directory assistnce or long distance operator to check the area code location.
  • Carefully read your telephone bill. Make sure that you only receive charges from your provider of choice. Ensure you thoroughly understand charges listed on your phone bill, have chosen to do business with all of the listed providers billing for those charges and have authorized additional fees invoiced. If your local service provider has changed, you will receive a final bill from the former provider and a notice of service disconnection.​

If you believe that you have been scammed:

  • Contact the carrier with whom the charge originated, whose name and toll-free telephone number should be printed on the same bill page as the charge in question. Often, the problem can be resolved with a single phone call.
  • If the carrier with whom the charge originated does not agree to resolve the problem, contact AT&T, which will work with you and the carrier to help remove fraudulent charges from the phone bill.

Just so you know, it's not only AT&T that has to deal with phone scams. The IRS recently issued a warning regarding "a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants," that has become increasingly pervasive throughout the country.

According to the IRS, the targeted individuals receive a phone call and are told they owe money to the IRS and immediate payment is required using a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If prompt cooperation is not forthcoming, victims are threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver's license.

The agency noted that scammers often use false names and IRS badge numbers; may be able to provide the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number; may spoof the IRS toll-free phone number on caller ID, and, after making various threats, may hang up and others call back saying they are from the local police department or department of motor vehicles.

"If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling," said Daniel Werfel, acting IRS commissioner. IT IS A SCAM!