Scam Costs its Victims Big Bucks
The "809" scam works basically like this...
You get home and notice that the message light is blinking on your answering machine. You listen to the message, which has several wrinkles, but the best one is the caller asks you to call a number beginning with area code 809 to receive information about a family member who has been ill. (They may also tell you someone has been arrested, died, you have won a wonderful prize, etc.)
In any event, concerned or curious, you make the call. Sometimes the phone will be answered by a person who claims to speak broken English. (The idea is to keep you on the line to build up charges.) Or, sometimes you will just get a long recorded message. The bottom line is, when your phone bill comes, you see this incredible charge, oftentimes more than $100 dollars
809 Phone Numbers Get Around US Regulations
Crooks are using the 809 numbers as "pay-per-calls" and to get around the US Regulations and 900 number blocking. Every time you call the number, they get a greatly inflated rebate from the foreign phone company.
Since the 809 numbers are in the Caribbean, they aren't bound by US 900 number regulations that require them to warn you of the charge and rate involved, and also to provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged.
New Twist to Scam
The newest twist to this scam is to page people using the 809 numbers. With the new area code changes, people unknowingly are returning these calls. When the bill comes, there are huge charges for the calls.
Another suggestion is that no matter how you get the message, if you are asked to call a number with an 809 area code that you don't recognize, don't return the call. It's bad enough that the criminal is invading your privacy, don't let them invade your wallet as well.
Scams of this type are extremely hard to prosecute and since you did actually make the call, neither your local phone company or your long distance carrier will want to get involved. They'll tell you that they are simply providing the billing for the foreign company. You end up trying to deal (over the phone) with a foreign company that feels they have done no wrong.