Area code scams entice callbacks

Michael Lewis

Scam artists are leaving voicemail messages from bogus area codes overseas coercing callers to call back. Apparently, return calls rack up charges in excess of $25 per minute.

Experts call it the “809 area code scam,” and it is experiencing a rebirth in the United States. The 809 area code is actually located in the Caribbean. The scam operates as a “pay-per-call” number, much like 900 numbers in the United States, which charge callers per minute per call.

“We actually received a call last week from the 809 area code,” said Alice Ickes, Kent State crime prevention officer. “The woman said, ‘Hey, this is Karen. Sorry I missed you. Get back to us quickly. We have something important to tell you.’ We didn’t respond.”

AT&T Field Service Manager Sandi Van Handel said people should never dial the area codes 809, 284 and 876. Often, a message is received on your answering machine or voicemail requesting a callback to a number beginning with the area codes listed above.

Handel said the reason people are asked to call back could vary from receiving information about a family member who has been ill or to tell the person someone they know has been arrested or killed. In some cases, callers receive notice of winning a prize.

Those individuals who return the message are either put on hold or transferred from one operator to another, as long as the line can be kept open to accrue charges from $8 to $25 per minute.

“We recommend that no matter how you get the message, if you are asked to call a number with an 809 area code, investigate further or disregard the message,” Handel said. “It’s important to prevent becoming a victim of this scam, since trying to fight the charges afterwards can become a real nightmare.”

Contact safety reporter Michael Lewis at [email protected]