Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre is warning residents of an old long distance phone scam which leads to high charges on phone bills that has resurfaced and is affecting wireless phone customers.
In this scam, a wireless phone will receive a call and ring once or twice and then disconnect. When the wireless user returns the call, they assume they are making a domestic call since the number begin with an area code such as 809, 284, 649 or 876. In reality, the user is connected to a phone number outside the United States, often in Canada or the Caribbean, and is charged expensive international call rates and possibly even for pay-per-call services as well. Users do not find out about the higher rates until receiving their phone bill. In other instances of this scam, users may receive a voicemail or email message indicating they should call a number with one of those (or similar) area codes to collect a prize, find out about a sick relative, or some other false pretense.
In a recent local case, a Lafourche resident had been receiving phone calls since October 2011, mostly from an 876 area code. During the calls, the resident was notified of prizes the resident had allegedly won such as a car and money, but that they needed the resident to send money for the postage and handling. The resident sent money to an account in Jamaica but had not received any goods/prizes.
Sheriff Webre is informing citizens that they can protect themselves from this scam by checking into any unfamiliar area codes before returning a missed call. You can call directory assistance or the long distance operator to check an area code location. As a general rule, only return calls to familiar numbers or recognizable area codes. For citizens that never make international calls, they can ask their local or wireless phone company to block outgoing international calls from the line. If you have already fallen victim to this scam, you should first try to resolve the matter with your telephone company. If a resolution cannot be reached, you should file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).