Better Business Bureau: Be smart about unfamiliar numbers

October 17, 2013 

Following a presentation to the CenturyLink Telephone Pioneers Chapter 121, concern over identifying long-distance calls by area code and avoiding billing overcharges was raised.

One member said she’d been able to identify out of area calls, but voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows con artists to hide their correct phone numbers, making it difficult to avoid picking up a call you otherwise would avoid.

Another member said he’d read online about consumers being led to believe that they will be charged thousands of dollars for accidentally calling scam numbers.

Both schemes are several years old as the phone continues to be the tool of choice for con artists. From January through July, BBB received 421 reports of phone scams. While you should always check an unfamiliar area code before dialing, it’s important to remember area code scams are out there.

These schemes vary, but all have the same goal. Get as much information — personal and financial — from the person who answers. The results vary too — including identity theft or credit theft.

The con artists generally hides his phone number as part of the deception. However, beware: Calls from area code 876- are from Jamaica, where scams have originated in the past.

The second area code scam involves a voice mail from an unrecognized number. The person on the message claims there is an emergency and urges you to call a number starting with an 809, 284, 649, or 876 area code. The “emergency” varies, but common scenarios involve an injured (or arrested) relative, an overdue bill or a cash prize to claim.

When you return the call, a variety of things may happen. The scammer may try to keep you on the line to wrack up fees on a toll number. Or ask you to send money or share personal information.

The 809, 284, 649 or 876 area codes are international calls (809 is an area code for the Dominican Republic). Some calls between countries do not require the “011” international prefix; callers may not realize it’s an international call.

Scammers benefit because they don’t have to inform callers in advance of special rates or fees levied by the international version of a 1-900 number. If you call, you will be charged for an international call and potentially extra fees. However, you will not automatically wrack up thousands of dollars in charges.

Protect yourself:

• Only return calls to familiar numbers. As a general rule, only call familiar area codes or do a quick Google search before placing a call.

• Read your telephone bill carefully. Make sure you have authorized all additional fees.

• Just hang up. Like any other phone scam, the best way to protect yourself is to hang up.

• If you believe that you have been scammed, contact the carrier with whom the charge originated. The name of the carrier and the telephone number should be printed on your bill. Often, the problem can be resolved with a single phone call.

If the carrier does not agree to resolve the problem, contact your carrier. They should work with you to help remove fraudulent charges.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service