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Don't return calls from these area codes -- it's a scam!

Posted by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 7:45 PM
  • 37 Replies


A scam that repeats itself in modified forms every few years is once again spreading throughout the United Sates. Don’t be a victim!

Criminals target people simply by calling them. Intended victims receive a call on their phones from area code 473 which rings once and then disconnects, thereby arousing the call-recipient’s natural curiosity – “who just called me and from where?”  Sometimes the caller actually allows the phone to ring long enough for the victim to answer -- after which the caller (or the caller’s robocaller system) makes groaning sounds or otherwise indicates that he or she is in distress and then hangs up, enticing the victim to wonder what is going on and call back.

[More from Forbes: These Devices May Be Spying On You (Even In Your Own Home)]

If either of these happens to you – don’t call back.

While area code 473 may appear to be domestic, it is not. This area code was created in the late 1990s for the islands of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique, which, like the United States, use country code 1. Calls placed to 473 numbers are international calls and can be quite expensive – and, because the criminals sometimes establish the number which the victim sees on his or her caller ID as a premium service number – the rate can exceed $20 for the first minute!

473 is not the only area code from which this scam has been perpetrated. Beware calls coming in from area codes 809, 284, 649 and 876, which like 473 are international, and are known to have been used for similar scams. Of course, if you do not have a calling plan that includes calls to Canada, there are many other area codes for which you could be billed international dialing rates, but so-called “one ring,” “ring and run,” or “dial and disconnect” scams are not typically perpetrated using Canadian numbers.

If you have voicemail – as pretty much everyone does today – there is usually no reason to call back missed calls from numbers that you do not recognize, regardless of the area code from which they originated. If a caller has something important to say, he or she can leave a message identifying himself or herself (or send you a text message). Don’t let curiosity get the best of you.

[More from Forbes: 10 Incredibly Simple Things You Can Do To Protect Your Privacy]

“Ring and run” scams are not new; when 900 numbers and pagers were popular in the days before the proliferation of the Internet and cell phones (it’s hard to believe that was less than a generation ago), criminals would page people asking them to return calls to such numbers. Eventually, people learned not to call back anyone with a 900 number. Likewise, until shortly before the turn of the century, the Caribbean islands using the American country code 1 all used the same area code, 809; scams were perpetrated, but, after a while, people learned to avoid calling that single area code. The latest crop of scams exploits the advances in technology – the implementation of many new area codes makes it difficult for most people to recognize what is a domestic number and what is not, and the proliferation of cellphones (rather than pagers) means that sounds of trouble can be played to victims, exploiting their caring about others in distress.

The criminals’ new tactic reinforces the need for people to be aware of international area codes within the US country code of 1 – after all, how difficult would it be for criminals to leave a voicemail claiming to be a collection agency, doctor, police department, or other “real sounding” party and ask the recipient to call back at some domestic-sounding, but international, phone number? How many people would likely fall prey to such a scam?

[More from Forbes: Serious Cyber-Vulnerabilities Found At The Department Of Homeland Security]

While 809, 473, 284, 649 and 876, may be the primary sources of the current danger, here is a list of (non-Canadian) area codes that are international. All but a few are relatively new, having been split off from 809 in the late 1990s.

Stay safe!

242- Bahamas441 – Bermuda784 - St. Vincent & Grenadines
246 – Barbados473 – Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique809, 829, 849 – Dominican Republic
264 – Anguilla649 – Turks and Caicos868 - Trinidad and Tobago
268 – Antigua664 – Montserrat876 - Jamaica
284 – British Virgin Islands758 – St Lucia869 - St. Kitts & Nevis
345 – Cayman Islands767 – Dominica 


by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 7:45 PM
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Replies (1-10):
by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 7:46 PM

TFS  this is good to know

by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 8:19 PM

I don't answer if I don't know the number any way 

by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 8:22 PM
I never answer if i don't know the number.
by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 8:33 PM

I never answer if I don't know the number. And very very rarely do I call them back.
by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 8:38 PM

I don't usually answer but sometimes dh does :/ We just recently got rid of caller ID so we won't be answering the phone at all now.  Anyway, what a crazy scam!

by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 8:42 PM
Useful thanks
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by Bronze Member on Feb. 3, 2014 at 8:48 PM

 My new licensing software is finally up and running.  My IT guy was not able to load it as it said in the directions.  In a round about way he was internally in the software system in literally seconds.  Pretty scary.  There is the cyber security law and I think we may need to review it.  Have yet to issue a hunting/fishing license. Especially wih this new system. We have been down since late December.  It was only going to be a week or two at the most.  So much for the state program. Makes me wonder how much info can be taken from ones profile. 

by on Feb. 3, 2014 at 10:46 PM
I saw that on the news! Good post!
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by on Feb. 4, 2014 at 12:16 AM

I hang up on ones I don't know ;)

by on Feb. 4, 2014 at 12:27 AM

Speaking of scams, some guy called our house the other day and tried to tell my DH that something was wrong with our computer and when he asked the guy what company he worked for, he didn't say Microsoft, he said Windows something (can't remember how he said it), but DH said that isn't a company and started lecturing the guy about Microsoft and pisssed him off. so the guy told him to F-off and hung up. It was a good comic relief for the day, because we were both just laughing so hard. Then my DH called Microsoft and the phone company to report the scam and I guess we have been having a lot of that in our area.

~ From your friendly neighborhood Sue :-) <3 ~

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