There are many scams that deceive consumers into calling international numbers. In most cases, you have to dial "011' to begin a call to a foreign country. But there are locations outside the U.S., for example, 809, 284 and 876 area codes, that are located in the Caribbean and do not require you to dial "011" international rates apply. These scams usually involve an ad for a service, a page, an e-mail message or an 'urgent" message on your answering machine that directs you to call a specific number. Not only can you incur international rates for calling this number, some phone numbers in these area code are "pay-per-call" numbers (such as 900 numbers in the US) - but there are no legal requirements that callers be informed that they are being charged extra. When you return one of these calls, the person who answers will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible in order to charge you high "pay per call" rates for the call. It is difficult to get credit for these charges if you do get scammed since you did make the call, and resolving the problem involves getting credit from international phone companies. To protect yourself, be cautious about area codes you don't recognize. Since new area codes are constantly being added, check your telephone directory or call the operator to determine where the area code is before making your call. Control access to your telephone so unauthorized callers do not use your phone to call these services. A block on calls to "900" services will not stop calls to "011" or "809" numbers. You can contact a Customer Service Representative at 754-4311 to have a international block put on your telephone line if you're sure you won't need to make international calls on the line. Remember no block is 100 percent effective. Operator assisted calls can still get through.
You may receive an automated message on your telephone that says you have won a prize or money. The message directs you to dial a 2-digit code preceded or followed by the * or # key (such as *79 or 72#), and then an 800 number to claim your prize. When you dial the number, you are not connected to anyone. What this procedure has done, though, is program your telephone to forward your calls to a long distance operator. Con artists can then call your number, be forwarded to the long distance operator and place calls that are billed to your home telephone number. Remember, if you have call forwarding, the number used activate it at ATMC is *72 and no legitimate sweepstakes or contest would likely contact you in this manner.
For tips on how to identify fraudulent telemarketing and online pitches, or to report suspected telemarketing and Internet fraud, contact the National Fraud Information/Internet Fraud Watch - a project of the National Consumers League - at http://www.fraud.org/. FCC Consumer Information Bureau