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809: Three numbers that can cost you a bundle

Date Added: March 02, 2016 11:00 am

Pay-per-call services, those costly telephone calls that start with the 1-900 prefix, come under government regulation in the United States.

That means that they must obey certain rules designed to prevent citizens from being duped into inadvertently making one of these expensive calls.

For instance, they are required to give you the company's name, describe the information, goods or service to be provided and tell you the cost of the call. Also, they must provide a brief time period for you to terminate the call before the charges start registering.

Unfortunately, the same rules don't apply to pay-per-call services that set up shop outside of this country, just out of reach of U.S. government regulations and local law enforcement. Many companies are exploiting that lack of government oversight to perpetrate expensive scams that are costing our citizens thousands of dollars. One of the most common involves the 809 telephone prefix. Here's how it works: You get an urgent message asking you to call a telephone number that begins with the area code 809. The reason you are asked to make the call may vary. It can be to receive information about a family member who is ill or who may have passed away. It may be to tell you a close friend or family member has been arrested, or it may be to let you know that you have won a valuable prize.

Whatever the reason that's given, you're instructed to call the 809 number right away. Don't do it! This is a scam designed to trick you into calling a pay-per-call number. Investigators have tracked this particular scam to the British Virgin Islands, where pay-per-call services are not regulated. That means that without you knowing, your charges start building the second you dial the number - usually at the outrageously exorbitant rate of $25 or more, per-minute.

But wait: It gets worse. Many times, the person on the other end of the phone will ask you questions, put you on hold, play a recorded message for you or speak in broken English and pretend to have difficulty understanding you. This is all part of the scam and is designed to keep you on the line as long as possible to increase the charges. When you finally hang up, your bill for this call could total thousands of dollars.

This scam is unwittingly costing victims lots of money. If you're taken in by this scam, fighting the charges is difficult to impossible because you did actually make the call. The best advice is to disregard any message that asks you to call a number with an 809 prefix, or any other area code that you don't recognize. Dialing the number could be a very expensive mistake! 

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