Exposes of the Area Code Scam

 Exposes of the Area Code Scam

Judging from the menu of available scam operations, one thing is certain: the legions of con- artists prowling out there will never run out of scams.

it’s a shame that today’s retirees are such a tempting target for this unscrupulous bunch; in particular scammers that target and rob those retirees with large disposable incomes. The newest scam to hit is the Area Code Scam.

This particular scam can arrive by mail, email, or through a phone message. The messages urge people to call to claim a prize, find out about a sick relative, or just to engage in talk. Another method used is ringing the phone once or twice, then disconnecting. When you see the number in your phone log as missed, it looks like a domestic number. If you return the call, you are connected to an international number that charges you international rates or pay-per-call service rates. A call lasting more than a few minutes could cost you $200—a charge you’ll discover only when the phone bill arrives.

Area codes in the Caribbean and Canada can look deceptively like U.S. area codes because they also contain a three-number code. This area of the world has become a hotbed for scammers and their activities. For these calls you can wind up paying upwards of $3 to $4 a minute, depending on your carrier. The numbers function like U.S. premium rate lines that use the 900 area code.

These sky high rates are then split between the foreign phone companies and those operating the various lines.

Another popular scam is called the “grandparent scam.” You’re told your grandchild has been arrested and needs you to wire bail money. It’s still not clear how scammers are getting the phone numbers of retirees. Some believe that phone numbers are called at random until a retiree answers. The numbers could be culled from social networking sites or other internet sources. Retirees have reported the caller correctly using the name of the grandchild, or tricking them into giving away the name of the grandchild, according to officials at the Federal Communications Commission (FTC).

Ironically if you try to contest the charges the phone company may just tell you tough luck—you dialed the number willingly and it had no control over the high connection costs. But there may be help.

“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has gotten wind of these threats and has encouraged retirees to tell their stories,” said Mark Wigfield, public affairs officer for the FCC.

“While they may not get their charges removed, they are helping [the FCC] build a case for tougher regulations against this kind of scam in the future.”

The best strategy for any retiree is to simply avoid the charges in the first place! Never call back a strange long distance number. Always look up the area code first by either going online or checking the area code charts in the front of your phone book. Never dial unless you know exactly where you’re going.