2009-05-28 / Front Page

Phone and Email Scams Hit Home

On Tuesday, May 19, at approximately 3:37 p.m., Officer Harrison with the Giddings Police Department met Dorothy Gerdes in the lobby of the police department. Gerdes wanted to report that she and her mother had been called by someone asking for money. Gerdes stated that her mother was contacted by a man named Hharr from an area code of 876. Gerdes stated that the man asked her mother if she had $500 that she could send. When her mother stated that she only had $100 and that was for medications, Hharr asked if she would send whatever money she had. Hharr has contacted her several times and has used different names each time.

When Gerdes received this information from her mother, she researched it on the Internet to see if anyone else had come in contact with someone similar.

Gerdes found the scam also involves other area codes, including 809 and 284. The email states that they leave a message and tell you that a family member is ill, has been arrested or died, or to tell you that you have won a wonderful prize. In each of these cases you are asked to call a number with the area code of 809 right away. The e-mail states that if you call from the United States you will apparently be charged $2425 per minute. The 809 area code is located in the Dominican Republic.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently learned that an old long distance phone scam that leads consumers to incur high charges on their phone bills may now affect wireless consumers. In the past, consumers have been fooled into making expensive international calls by scam artists who leave messages on consumers' answering machines or their e-mail accounts. The messages urge consumers to call a number with an "809," "284," "876," or some other area code to collect a prize, find out about a sick relative, or engage in sex talk.

Wireless consumers are now receiving similar calls from phone numbers with three-digit area codes that appear to be domestic, but are actually associated with international pay-per-call phone numbers. While wireless companies are working to block suspicious numbers on their networks, some consumers may become victims of this scam.

The scam works something like this:

* Your wireless phone rings once or twice and then disconnects the call. When the number appears in your wireless phone log as a missed call, it appears to be a typical domestic telephone number starting with a "649" area code; or you get an e-mail or voicemail (on your residential wired telephone) telling you to call a phone number with an "809", "284", "876," or some other three-digit international area code.

* When you return the call, you assume you are making a domestic long distance call - as "649," "809," "284," "876," and other area codes involved in this scam, appear to be typical threedigit U.S. area codes.

* When you dial the three-digit area code plus the number, however, you are connected to a phone number outside the United States, often in Canada or the Caribbean, and are charged expensive international call rates, and may be charged for pay-per-call services as well. (In this case, "649" goes to the Turks and Caicos, "809" goes to the Dominican Republic, "284" goes to the British Virgin Islands, and "876" goes to Jamaica.)

* You don't find out about the higher international call rates until you receive your phone bill.

For more information on this and other consumer scams, go to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website at www.fcc.gov/cgb/contacts/

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