This is one of those eRumors that was wrong to begin with and has gotten even more confusing as it has circulated. We'll try to unravel it.
The bottom line is that you don't need to completely avoid calling area codes 809, 284, or 876, especially if you know who you are calling. You do need to be suspicious about strange messages you might get that ask you to return a call to the Caribbean.
SCAM ALERT / AREA CODES
The National Fraud Information Center and Verizon have reported a telephone scam which could easily cost you several thousand dollars, and which is difficult to avoid unless you are aware. Read further to learn how and why it works.
Both Verizon and the National Fraud Information Center report that the following scam is spreading quickly nationwide, can easily cost you $24,000 or more, and is difficult to avoid unless you are aware of it.
In addition to area code 809, these sixteen new area codes are also being created and could be used in the scam: 242, 246, 264, 268, 284, 345, 441, 473, 664, 758, 767, 784, 787, 868, 869 and 876.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
There are many versions of this scam. Do not respond to e-mails, phone calls, or web pages which tell you to call a phone number with either area code 809 or one of the area codes listed above. No matter how you get the message, if you are asked to call a number with any of these area codes we recommend that you neither respond or investigate further, but instead simply disregard the message.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS:
You will receive a message on your answering machine or your pager asking you to call a number beginning with area code 809, or one of the area codes listed above.
The reason you're asked to call may vary from receiving information about a family member who has been ill, to tell you someone has been arrested or died, or to let you know you have won a wonderful prize, etc. In each case, you are told to call the phone number right away. Since there are so many new area codes these days, people unknowingly return these calls.
If you call from the U.S., you will apparently be charged $2,425 per minute, or you'll get a long recorded message. The point is, they will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges. Unfortunately, when you get your phone bill, you'll often be charged more than $24,100.00.
WHY IT WORKS:
The 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Islands (The Bahamas). The 809 area code can be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900 numbers in the U.S. Since 809 is not in the U.S., it is not covered by U.S. regulations for 900 numbers, which require that you be notified and warned of charges and rates involved when you call a "pay-per-call" number.
Also, there is no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged. Further, while many U.S. phones have 900 number blocking to avoid these kinds of charges, 900 number blocking will not prevent calls to the 809 area code.
It's important to prevent becoming a victim of this scam, since trying to fight the charges afterwards can become a real nightmare (because you did actually make the call). If you complain, both your local phone company and your long distance carrier will not want to get involved and will most likely tell you that they are simply providing the billing for the foreign company. You'll end up dealing with a foreign company that argues they have done nothing wrong.
Please alert your friends, family and colleagues to help them become aware of this scam. More information can be found on AT&T's fraud information page: www.att.com/fraud/home.html, or by contacting Sue Wishner, ABSS-Verizon, at 805/230-3456