Area code "809" hoax?

I justy got this from a friend, who asked me to find out if it’s a hoax. I was just going to E her back “yep, sure sounds phony to me,” but thought I’d ask the Teeming Millions if you’d heard anything specific about where it originated or if it might actually—heaven forfend!—be for real:

"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.

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.

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 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, don’t 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."


Skeptical Sadie, the Queen of Herald Square

According to Snopes this is sort of true, but grossly exaggerated and wrong in the details. Which is actually pretty good for an e-mail spam chain letter.

Thanks, ME! I E’d her the Snopes link. She no longer just sends me Dire Warnings; she just sends them to me and meekly asks, “so, is this another hoax?” She’s learning . . .

Scams of this type do exist… but the message your friend got is way out of date. Area code 809 is now only the Dominican Republic, for instance.

Check out Linc Madison’s Telesleaze page for details. Scroll down to “Scambusters and the $2425/minute Hoax” for details about the $2425 per minute thing… aparently the inflated dollar figure resulted from mangling of text as the message bounced across the internet for years. A dollar-sign in $25 got changed to the characters ‘=24’, then someone ‘cleaned it up’ by replacing the erroneous equal-sign with another dollar-sign, leaving $2425.

See also ScamBusters’ 809-scam page.

“Then Cecil came to them and said, ‘All knowledge in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, educating them in the name of Facts and of Sources and of Proper Citations, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

And of course, here’s what the FCC has to say about the whole thing.