Friday, January 06, 2006

Phone, E-Mail, and Pager Messages May Signal Costly Scams

The following is courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission:

    Beware the "urgent" message you hear on your answering machine, the e-mail message about a "prize," or the long-distance message on your pager. Any of them could turn out to be an expensive telephone trap.

    From coast to coast, American consumers are getting stung by "emergency" and cryptic telephone, e-mail and pager messages urging them to call an "809" number for information about injured or sick relatives, "prize opportunities" or "debt collectors." The messages tell recipients to call a long-distance number for more information. In many cases, the return-call number is an international pay-per-call line, with a three digit exchange that looks like an American or Canadian area code.

    Concerned or curious consumers who take the bait and place the return call usually are kept on the line, listening to long-winded messages. As the clock ticks, the charges build, and scam artists are counting the rebates they'll receive from foreign telephone companies. For every minute you stay on the line, the scam artist who offers the "information" collects a bigger share in the profits.

    It's not always easy to distinguish an international dialing code from a North American area code. Most international numbers can be reached only by dialing 011, the international access code. However, some places outside the United States or Canada, such as the Caribbean, can be reached simply by dialing a number beginning with three digits that resemble a North American area code. Many scam artists take advantage of this situation -- and of unsuspecting consumers -- by urging them to call numbers that begin with area codes 809, 758, or 664 without revealing that these calls result in international long distance charges that could be costly. Because each country establishes its own telephone rates, there is no limit to the per-minute charge for these calls.

    The Federal Trade Commission reminds consumers to be suspicious of unidentified telephone, e-mail, or pager messages that claim to offer information about a sick or injured relative, a debt, bad credit, or prize offer. In addition, the FTC cautions consumers to be wary of messages from unfamiliar sources with a return telephone number using 809, 758, or 664 area codes, or the 011 international access code.
    Finally, the agency suggests that consumers question television or print ads that offer products or investment opportunities through telephone numbers that start with these area codes or the 011 international code.

Area Code:

Location:
264
268
242
246
441
284
245
767
473
876
664
869
758
784
868
809
Anguilla
Antigua and Barbuda
Bahamas
Barbados
Bermuda
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Dominica
Grenada
Jamaica
Montserrat
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent/ Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
Dominican Republic
    The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.FTC.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
    The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.










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    Behavior Management Expert and Maximizing Your Potential Mentor™ Etienne A. Gibbs is a life-observing author, engaging talk show host, humorous speaker, and successful trainer who teaches small business owners, managers, and employees how to speak, think, and perform in ways that will help them shine. In the end, they maximize their critical thinking, speaking, and management skills.

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