Avoid The 876 Area Code Scam
August 21, 2013

Avoid The 876 Area Code Scam

Everyone knows that 800 numbers are generally free to make from a landline telephone, as are 888, 877 and 866. These are all “toll free” numbers where the fees for calls are paid by the receiver.

Typically, these belong to businesses as help lines, information numbers or sales lines. The toll-free area codes were devised by the Federal Communications Commission and are provided to “Responsible Organizations.” There is even a law that keeps any company from hoarding the numbers.

There aren’t typically fees associated with these calls, but some hotels will charge when dialing a number with an 800, 888, 877 or 866 prefix, and calls made via a mobile phone will count at least in terms of minutes used.

The FCC hasn’t even come close to using up all the 800 number combinations, but as a way to ensure it wouldn’t it, they added 888, 877 and 866. There is already a plan for 844, 833 and 822 just in case.

It should be noted that while 877 is used as a toll-free number, it is also a number used by telemarketers, as it can help mask the location of an incoming call. So, when your caller ID identifies the prefix as 877, chances are it is someone trying to sell you something. And while these numbers are intended for “Responsible Organizations,” many of the telemarketers will be anything but.

All this is very important to understand because there is a new scam emerging which is actually based on an old scam. It involves the 876 area code, which as you can see could easily be confused with one of the above noted area codes.

This area code isn’t toll free, and it isn’t even in the United States. It is a Jamaican area code, and calls that come from it are likely something far worse than any sort of scam you’d get from 877.

“Anyone receiving an unexpected call from area code 876 should be on high alert,” James Boffetti, New Hampshire senior assistant attorney general, told the AARP. “There is a high likelihood that these calls are from scam artists. Unfortunately, these scammers are very persistent and in some cases verbally abusive, threatening to harm victims if they do not send money.”

Currently, about 30,000 calls are made from Jamaica to the United States every day often to defraud American citizens. Seniors, who may know that 866 and 877 are toll-free numbers, are often the victims as the 876 prefix could be mistaken as a toll-free number.

This is a typical scam that promises a prize, but where a small fee needs to be paid upfront!

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), has followed the scam very closely:

“Here’s how the swindle works. It starts with a simple phone call from an ‘876’ area code, where the scammer often tells the victim they’ve just won millions of dollars in a lottery or a sweepstakes and a brand new car. All they have to do to collect is to wire a few hundred dollars in upfront processing fees or ‘taxes,’ and their ‘winnings’ will be delivered. Often, the criminals will tell their elderly victims not to share the good news with anyone, so that it will come as a ‘surprise’ when their family finds out.”

As the esteemed Senator noted, there is no prize. This has become so prevalent that FairPoint Communications and law enforcement has even launched the BewareOf876.com website to help combat this nefarious plot.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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