Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Return Call Scam

A telephone scam that has been around for many years has appeared again. This scam involves returning calls to the 809, 284 and 876 area codes that originate in the British Virgin Islands.

The caller leaves a message on your answering machine, gives their first name and leaves a message such as "“Sorry I missed your call ... Please call me back. I have something important to tell you.”" The reasons you are asked to call back vary and can include such things as a family member is ill, someone has been arrested, someone has died, or you have won a prize.

If you call the number back from the United States you will apparently be charged an inflated per-minute fee. Why this can work is that the above area codes can be used as “pay-per-call” numbers like 900 numbers and since this is in the British Virgin Islands it is not covered by U.S. regulations, which require consumers to be notified and warned of charges and rates. There is also no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without any charges.

Protect Yourself from Return Call Scams

If this happens to you and you complain to your local phone company or long distance carrier, they will most likely state they are only providing the billing for the foreign company. You may end up spending hours trying to resolve the problem and dealing with a foreign company that will argue it has done nothing wrong.