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242 State Street, State House Station #18, Augusta, Maine 04333
Contact: Derek D. Davidson @ (207) 287-1596
Beware the 809 Area Code Telephone Scam
The Maine Public Utilities Commission (Commission or MPUC) is warning consumers that a simple reply to a phone number with area code 809 may ultimimately result in $100 or more in long distance charges. Unaware consumers may fall into this potentially expensive situation by responding to messages containing a call-back number to an 809 area code.
The scam begins with urgent messages left on answering machines, emails, or website advertisements. Messages vary from unclaimed sweepstake prizes to reports of accidents involving family members or friends to unpaid bills. Often, unsuspecting consumers call the number which connects them to a long pre-recorded message or someone who cannot speak English.
Consumers can protect themselves from this scam by remembering some important points:
· Consumers will be charged for dialing the 809 area code number. American law can not protect consumers because the 809 area code originates in the British Virgin Islands (the Bahamas). This means that consumers are not forewarned that the area code is a “pay-per-call” number, otherwise known in the US as 900 telephone numbers. Once the number is dialed, long distance charges begin to accumulate. US telephone carriers cannot establish a “pay-per-call” number block on the 809 area code.
· The scam artist’s motive is to prolong the call anyway possible. A clever stalling tactic may cost consumers as much as $25 per minute. Consumers who find themselves in this situation are advised to hang up immediately.
· Consumers should beware that once the 809 area code number contacts, international telephone companies become involved. This means incurred charges cannot be dismissed by consumers’ local or national telephone carriers. Consumers contesting the charges must deal with international carriers.
If you have any questions regarding this telephone scam, please contact the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s Consumer Assistance Hotline at (800) 452-4699.
You can also reach the Maine PUC at: TTY Relay (800) 437-1220
Fax: (207) 287-1039
View the Maine PUC Home page at: http://www1.maine.gov/mpuc/homepage.htm