UPDATE: According to myth-debunking website Snopes, the 809 area code scam is an old one that is being revived. Although scammers will call you from an 809 area code, not ALL calls from 809 numbers are scams. The charge per minute is also typically exaggerated. While Pocatello Police warned citizens that they could be charged a whopping $2,425 a minute, Snopes says the amount a victim loses is actually closer to $25. Thanks to commenter Cheryl Lyda for the heads up.
We’ve heard about some pretty bad scams lately. The ol’ medicare phone scam, the adorable puppy scam, even the cruel Girl Scout Cookie scam! But this one takes the cake for sheer cruelty and maliciousness, and even YOU could be a victim!
The 809 Area Code scam is especially villainous, because it requires almost zero stupidity on your part, but can rip thousands from your pocket in minutes. According to a Pocatello press release, the scam begins with this mystery organization calling you or emailing you to call back a number with an 809 area code. Once you call, you’re treated to a lengthy recorded message or connected to a long-winded telemarketer, who will try to keep you on the line as long as possible. Why do they want you to stay on the line so long? Because they charge you $2,425 a minute to stay connected.
It gets worse from there. The 809 area code is from the Dominican Republic or the Bahamas, meaning you aren’t protected by U.S. regulations when you try to dispute your bill. Stay on the line for eight or 10 minutes (not unusual for a confusing call you might think is important) and you’re looking at a solid $20,000 bill.
While some of these other scams prey on your gullibility (or weakness around adorable things), the 809 scam preys on your anxiety and curiosity. A mysterious call from an area code that begins with 8 usually means somebody from an insurance company or bill collector or credit card company is trying to squeeze money out of you. Or it could just be an old friend who wants to catch up. Maybe even an ex looking to apologize! While it can be easy to ignore (I plead guilty) that mysterious number can nag at you for days until you cave and call it back.
So just know: Never call an 809 number. Oh also 284, 649 and 876 (yikes). No apology from an ex is worth a $20,000 phone bill. Not usually anyway.