What Was That Number Again?
Date Added: Sept. 25, 2002
Basically, this scam is true. But the e-mail chain letter warning about it has mutated since it was originally written in 1996, and it now contains several significant mistakes, errors and lies.
Subject: SPECIAL ALERT - DON'T EVER DIAL AREA CODE 809
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 lot of money. There are lots of different permutations of this scam, but HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:
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.
HERE'S WHY IT WORKS:
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 Scam Busters! To your friends, family and olleacgues to help them become aware of this scam so they don't get ripped off."
Later versions exaggerate the facts, add "personal testimonials," and employ the ever-popular ALL CAPS to drive the point home:
Subject: DON'T EVER DIAL AREA CODE 809
Folks - I've cleaned this up and deleted all the previous addresses, etc., but the end result is that this came to us via SAIC Corporate in Huntsville. [bsnyder] (Us being Techni-core)
This is very scary. PLEASE HEED THE WARNING, the following explanation, and PASS THE WARNING ON TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS. Please do not delete this before reading the message in full. Kathy received a positive response from our local corporate facilities/phone personnel before passing the message on.
[bsnyder] Guys, I know these people read it.
THIS ONE IS BEING DISTRIBUTED ALL OVER THE US. THIS IS PRETTY SCARY -- ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE WAY 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! MAJOR SCAM:
DON'T RESPOND TO EMAILS, PHONE CALLS, OR WEB PAGES WHICH TELL YOU TO CALL AN "809" PHONE NUMBER. THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE OF SCAM BUSTERS=21 BECAUSE IT ALERTS YOU TO A SCAM THAT IS SPREADING *EXTREMELY* QUICKLY - CAN EASILY COST YOU $24100 OR MORE, AND IS DIFFICULT TO AVOID UNLESS YOU ARE AWARE OF IT.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:
YOU WILL 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, TO LET YOU KNOW YOU HAVE WON A WONDERFUL PRIZE, ETC.
IN EACH CASE, YOU ARE 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 $2425 PER-MINUTE. OR, YOU'LL 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 $24100.00. WHY IT WORKS:
THE 809 AREA CODE IS LOCATED IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 AND/OR INVESTIGATE FURTHER AND JUST DISREGARD THE MESSAGE. BE WARY OF EMAIL OR CALLS ASKING YOU TO CALL AN 809 AREA CODE NUMBER. IT'S IMPORTANT TO PREVENT BECOMING A VICTIM OF THIS SCAM, 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 MESSAGE TO YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY AND COLLEAGUES TO HELP THEM BECOME AWARE OF THIS SCAM SO THEY DON'T GET RIPPED OFF.
The text in this message was "borrowed" from Issue #8 of Internet ScamBusters, the number 1 publication on Internet fraud. Three years later, in Issue #34 Scambusters points out that the chain e-mail version contains a number of mistakes:
E-mail is editable - before someone forwards a message on, he or she is free to make whatever changes they see fit. In the case of this e-mail, when compared to Scambusters' original, we can see that the "editors" have changed the order of the paragraphs and added a more imposing introduction and more urgent-sounding plea to tell everyone you know about it.
The "editor" of the second version claims that he cleaned it up and that it "came to us via SAIC Corporate in Huntsville." What this most likely means is that one person who forwarded it in the past works, or worked, for SAIC, a fortune 500 research and engineering company. He or she had a signature file that automatically attached itself to the e-mail when they sent it, adding an official-sounding source, but the original Scambusters article predates this attribution by at least four years.
If you receive this message from a friend, point out that the chain letter version differs from the original and is not trustworthy. Break this Chain!