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"809 Area Code Scam" Hoax
June 09, 2003 - MUSKEGON, MI - DejaNET Communications today received an email with the subject 809, 284, 876 Area Codes.  This email does carry a grain of truth to it, but the actual email is misleading, outdated, incorrect and should be deleted and not passed on.  The email is a chopped up and heavily modified version of an original story that was posted by in 1996.

An exact copy of the email is shown in full below:

Subject: 809, 284, 876 Area Codes

809, 284, 876 Area Codes

809  Area Code

We actually received a call last week from the 809 area code.
The woman said "Hey, this is Karen.  Sorry I missed you--get back to us
Have something important to tell you."   Then she repeated a phone number
beginning with 809.
We didn't respond.

Then this week, we received the following e-mail:

Subject: DON'T EVER DIAL AREA CODE 809, 284 AND 876


This one is being distributed all over the US. This is pretty scary,
especially given the way they try to get you to call.
Be  sure you read this and pass it on to all your friends and family so they
don't get scammed!
Don't respond to Emails, phone calls, or web pages which tell you to call
an "809" area Phone  Number.

This is a very important issue of Scam  Busters because it alerts you to a
scam that is spreading  *extremely* quickly, can easily cost you $2400 or
more, and is difficult to avoid unless you are aware of it.

We'd  like to thank Verizon for bringing this scam to our attention.

This scam has also been identified by the National Fraud Information Center
and is costing victims a lots of money.

There are lots of different permutations of this scam.


You will receive a message on your answering machine or your pager, which
asks you to call a number beginning with area code 809. The reason you're
asked to call varies.   It can be to receive information about a family
member who has been ill, to tell you someone hasbeen arrested, died, to let
you know you have won a wonderful prize, etc.   In each case, you are told
to call the 809 number right away.   Since there are so many new area codes
these days, people unknowingly return these calls.

If you call from the US, you will apparently be charged $2425 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.

The 809  area  code is located in the British Virgin Islands (The
Bahamas).Dominican Republic.
The  809 area code can be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900
numbers in the US.   Since 809 is not in the US, it is not covered by U.S.
regulations of 900 numbers, which require that you be notified and warned of
charges and rates involved when you call a pay-per-call" number.

There is also no requirement that the company provide a time period during
which you may terminate the call without being charged. Further, where as
many U.S. homes that have 900 number blocking to avoid these kinds of
charges, do not work in preventing calls to the 809 area code.

We recommend 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, just disregard
the message.

Be wary of e-mail, or calls, asking you to call an 809 area code number.
It's important to prevent  becoming a victim of this scam, since trying to
fight the charges afterwards can become a real nightmare.  That's 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 forward this entire message to your friends, family and colleagues to
help them become aware of this scam.

Sandi Van Handel
AT&T Field Service Manager


This is a hoax - do not pass it on to anyone - simply delete it. If you did pass it on at on point, simply let the other persons) know the truth now that you know it.

The first thing to take notice of is the fact that this message shows the classic signs of a hoax - name dropping (Verizon and AT&T), and the familiar phrase, "Please forward this entire message to your friends, family and colleagues".

Second, the phone number of the AT&T Field Service Manager is missing a digit (should be 10 digits, not 9).

Third, the Dominican Republic uses Area Code 809 - not The Bahamas (which is area code 242).

Fourth, the dollar amount of "$2425 per minute" is wrong and a simple result of this message being foolishly passed on over and over.  (The original post form 1996 stated this at $25.  Posting to a newsgroup or certain computer systems will not allow using a dollar sign as a directly entered character, so the ASCII version is used instead - which happens to be %24 - someone using a newsreader that did not appropriately display this later saw the %24 and did not realize it was supposed to be the $ character, and instead modified the line to read $2425 thinking that was what was intended).  Also, note there is no comma in the dollar amount.

Fifth, the dollar amount in "$24,100.00" suffers from the same issue as pointed out above in my fourth point.  The original post back in 1996 was for $100 - once again the ASCII equivalent is %24 - someone changed this to $24 and decided to add a comma this time.

Sixth, you would have had to do a moments worth of digging on a search engine to figure this one out, but the Sandi Van Handel person has never existed nor was an AT&T Field Service Manager.  Besides, with a little thought, do you think an AT&T Field Service Manager would make the previous five mistakes I pointed out as well a name a competitor (Verizon) as being the one who pointed this out to AT&T?  AT&T is international, Verizon is not - would have made more sense the other way around.

Lastly, there is a grain of truth here, and that is to always be sure of the location of the number that you are calling and to carefully dial the number.  Be sure to read the next four links for a better explanation of this email and as always, NEVER BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR (on the Internet and in daily life) UNLESS YOU HAVE PROOF TO BACK IT UP.  Just because it was read or heard does not make it true - take a moment to verify the facts before passing information on to others.


You can read the original message from the October 7, 1996 web page here:

You can read the follow-up by pointing out their original flaw in the Area Codes from their October 12, 1996 web page here:

You can read the September 16, 1999 follow-up by on the resurfacing of this as an incorrect email here:

You can read AT&T's official message regarding this email here:


You can read more about this hoax by visiting the following links below:


A search on Google or "809 Scam" returns over 109,000 pages with info relating to this scam :

A Handy Tool to verify a Business or Residence Telephone Number, Area Code, or Address at


Last Modified: 06/09/2003
Copyright 2003 DejaNET Communications