FOX 8 Defenders: Three-digit area code scam

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Returning a phone call to a number you don't recognize could end up costing you, especially when dialing certain area codes.

When you receive a phone call from a three-digit area code, most people think that call is coming from within the U.S. However, there are some three-digit area codes that are actually International phone calls, and scammers get creative in luring you to call them back.

"A consumer may get a call from an area code they don't recognize on their answering service, and it'll say, give us a call, we have a relative of yours in jail, we have a relative of yours in the hospital or you've won a large prize," explained Leo Marsh, regional director for AT&T.

Marsh says consumers should be on the lookout for the following three-digit area codes:  284, 649, 876 and 809.

"They're almost always out of the country. I believe 809 is the British Virgin Islands," Marsh said.

The bulk of long distance phone scammers causing consumers to incur high charges come from the 809 area code.

"I've heard of some and seen some (phone bills) that were in the thousands (of dollars)," Marsh said.

While the scammer may try to keep you on the line for as long as possible, Marsh says sometimes the call can be a fishing expedition to get your personal information. For example, sometimes the scammers work to get access to your personal bank account.

Consumers don't find out they've been charged International call rates until they receive their bill.

"A lot of people get their phone bills, and they don't review it, and if the call is not exceptionally large, you may see a $15 or $20 call that you didn't make or that you made under false pretenses," Marsh explained.

Beside checking your phone bill each month, AT&T recommends you call the long distance provider and work with them on the charges. Often the problem can be resolved. If you're not familiar with an area code, don't return the call, or check the area code first through your directory assistance and save yourself time and money.

The FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women also field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397 or fill out an online complaint form.

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