ESPECIALLY “649”, “809”, “284”, AND “876,”

photo of a cell phone

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued an updated warning regarding an old long distance phone scam that leads customers to incur high charges on their phone bills; it may now affect wireless consumers, too. This scam fools customers into making expensive international calls by scam artists who leave messages on voice mail, answering machines or e-mail accounts. The messages typically urge you to call a number with a “649”, “809”, “284”, “876” or some other area code to collect a prize, find out about a sick relative, or engage in sex talk.

Wireless and cell phone users are now receiving similar calls from phone numbers with three-digit area codes that appear to be domestic. However, these numbers are actually associated with international pay-per-call phone numbers. While wireless companies are working to block suspicious numbers on their networks, some customers have become victims of this scam and incurred call rates of $25 per minute and more!

The Scam Works Something Like This:

Your wireless or cell phone rings once or twice and then stops ringing. When you look, you see what appears to be a call you missed. The number appears to be a typical domestic telephone number starting with a three-digit area code, one that you likely do not recognize. There is usually a message of some sort that entices you to call back. These calls can also appear in an e-mail or as voicemail.

When returning the call you assume you are making a domestic long distance call because the area codes involved in this scam appear to be typical three-digit U.S. area codes.

However, when you dial the three-digit area code plus the number you are actually connected to a phone number outside the United States and are charged expensive international call rates. You may also be charged for pay-per-call services as well which can be tens or even hundreds of dollars per minute.

You don’t find out about the higher international call rates or pay per call service charges until you receive your phone bill.

What You Can Do to Minimize the Risk of This Happening to You:

Check any unfamiliar area codes before returning calls. Be aware that there are many 3-digit area codes that connect callers to international telephone numbers

Avoid returning calls to international area codes unless you know who it is you are calling.

If you do not make international calls, ask your local or wireless phone company to block outgoing international calls on your line.

Please, be careful.