Recently the Information Systems guys where I work decided to send out an e-mail warning us about the 809 area code scam. The scam, which generated much noise on the local news shows a few years back, works ostensibly as follows.
The scammers beep the scammee, or leave a voice mail message, telling him to call (809) xxx-xxxx. The message offers big money or says a loved one has been in an accident, etc. Anything to get the scammee to call the number. The number is an offshore pay-to-call number similar to 900 numbers here in the U.S. and the charge is $2,500.00 per minute. The scamme gets a huge charge on his bill. Every account warns of the “nightmare” of getting the matter corrected.
Several aspects of this scam suggest that it is, in fact, an urban legend.
First, no one seems to know what country has authorized the 809 area code. IS listed it as British V.I.(Bahama) (sic). Did the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands combine?
Second, why would any jurisdiction, even in the Caribean, allow a $2,500/minute charge to hear a recorded message?
Third, I have difficulty understanding why the situation would be a “nightmare”. The simple solution is: DON’T PAY IT. Your phone service cannot be interupted due to a failure to pay the pay-to-call portion of a phone bill. The charge did not result from a contract that would stand even the mildest scrutiny, so the scammer can’t sue you to collect it. I am not familiar with consumer protection law in states other than Texas, but in Texas, charging $2,500 for nothing is a criminal offense. It is also possible that your long distance provider could be opening itself up to liability under the federal and state fair debt collection statutes by continuing to list the charge on your bill after having been informed of the nature of the charge.
Most of the above, I will admit, smacks of an argument from personal incredulity, Anybody have any hard info on this?