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Placing International Calls without Realizing it

It's not always easy to tell if you're dialing an international telephone number. In most cases, you have to dial “011” to begin a call to a foreign country. But there are locations outside the U.S. whose telephone numbers may look like domestic long-distance calls, but are actually international calls where international rates apply. For example, 809, 284 and 876 are area codes in the Caribbean.

There are many scams that deceive consumers into calling international numbers. You may see an ad for a service that directs you to call a specific number, or you may receive a page, an e-mail message or an “urgent” message on your answering machine. All messages direct you to call a number for more information - almost always an international number.

Be cautious about area codes you don't recognize. Check your telephone directory or call the operator to determine where the area code is before making your call.

Control access to your telephone so unauthorized callers do not use your phone to call these services. A block on calls to “900” services will not stop calls to “011” or “809” numbers. If you're sure you won't need to make international calls, call your long-distance carrier and ask them to put an international block on your telephone line.

About the 809 Area Code “Urban Legend”

Fraudsters have been distributing bogus e-mails through the Internet that are purported to come from AT&T. The topic: a phone scam involving the 809 area code. The scam itself is real, however, the e-mail and warning contain erroneous information. AT&T would like to set the record straight and separate fact from fiction.

The 809 area code scam first surfaced five years ago and continues to victimize consumers on occasion, although much less frequently than in the past. And there have been far more inquiries about it than consumers actually being victimized.

How the Scam Works:

In most cases a message is left on an answering machine or pager requesting the recipient call a number immediately for one of several reasons. The most common involves calling for information about a relative who has died, been arrested or injured. When consumers fall prey and call the number, the scam artist attempts to keep the caller on the line for as long as possible to increase the caller's long distance calling charges. The bogus e-mail claims the 809 area code sends calls to the British Virgin Islands, when in fact 809 is the country code for the Dominican Republic. The e-mail also warns consumers that dialing the 809 area code will result in charges of $2,400 per minute. That simply isn't true. The basic rate for a call to the Dominican Republic is less than $3 a minute although some 809 numbers terminate with pay-per-call services that permit the levy of additional fees. Since numbers located offshore are not subject to U.S. laws, there are no legal requirements that consumers be informed in advance of the extra charge.

And lastly, the e-mail purports to originate within AT&T's corporate offices and includes the name and partial telephone number of an imaginary employee.

Again, to avoid falling prey to the scam, AT&T recommends consumers know where they're calling before they dial. When consumers receive such a message from someone they don't know they should simply disregard it.

Consumers should also be mindful that it is usually necessary to dial 011 to reach an international location. However, there are some locations outside the United States, such as the Caribbean and Canada, where telephone numbers resemble domestic long-distance calls, but carry a higher international rate.

If a consumer isn't familiar with a certain area code, they can visit to look up any area code or country code in the world.