Friday, March 27, 2009

MyWireless.org Consumer Advisory - Beware of a New Form of an Old Scam: 'Missed Calls' from International Area Codes '649' and '809'

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today the national consumer advocacy coalition MyWireless.org(R) warned wireless consumers across the country about the latest twist on a scam 'missed call' scheme. Wireless companies have detected a pattern of calls that ring their customers' number once or twice and then disconnect. When the number appears on the customer's cell phone as a missed call, it appears to be a typical domestic three-digit phone number starting with the "649" area code. If the customer decides to return the missed call, the call is returned to an Adult Entertainment chat line in the Turks and Caicos, outside the reach of U.S. regulators. While wireless companies are working to block suspicious numbers on their networks, some individuals may be victims of this and similar schemes involving international area codes and end up being billed for expensive international call and chat line charges.

Brian Johnston, MyWireless.org's Director of Communications and Federal Advocacy said, "Unfortunately, this type of scam has become a fairly common occurrence in recent years. Scamsters in the past have tricked consumers into making expensive calls to international chat lines by leaving a message on answering machines, e-mail accounts, and now cell phone call logs," he continued, "urging the customer to call a number in the "809," "284," "876" (or some other) international area code to collect a prize, find out about a sick relative, etc., by engaging in chat."

MyWireless.org urges wireless consumers to always check an area code first before returning a call to an unknown caller. Be skeptical about area codes you don't recognize, especially: "649" (Turks and Caicos); "809" (Dominican Republic); "284" (British Virgin Islands); "876" (Jamaica); "758" (St. Lucia); or "664" (Montserrat). There are dozens of area codes (mostly in the Caribbean islands) which connect callers to an international telephone number. In addition, if you do not make international calls, ask your wireless carrier to block outgoing international calls on your account.

For more information: The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission have issued consumer advisories on this subject, and these scams have also been identified by the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as potentially costing victims lots of money, since U.S. consumers are unaware at the time of the international number expense until they receive their monthly bill. If you suspect you have received a form of this 'spoofed call,' and would like to file a complaint, please see the FTC Fact Sheet on International Telephone Number Scams: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/telemarketing/tel05.pdf, and the similar FCC Consumer Advisory: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/809.html, for reporting contacts.

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