Recently, local police department dispatchers received a phone call from a man with a Jamaican accent. He identified himself as Derek Young and wanted police officers sent to an address in the area to notify a woman of a death in her family and a phone number the woman could call for more information. He identified himself as a family member of the woman. The man said he was calling from Las Vegas, Nevada and he wanted the woman to call 876-335-6673.
The dispatcher became increasingly suspicious of the man as she requested more details. The man repeatedly requested that the woman call the number he gave to the dispatcher and had few details about the supposed death of the family member. The man did have the correct name, address and phone number of the woman and the correct name of the supposed deceased family member. When the dispatcher checked the phone number the man wanted the woman to call, she discovered that the number was based in Jamaica.
Officers responded to the woman’s address aware that the death notification was probably a scam and after speaking with the woman confirmed that it was a scam. The woman told police that she had been the victim of a previous unreported telephone scam. The woman is elderly and could have provided the details used by the man when she was scammed the first time.
The attempt to use police officers to contact the woman to have her call the phone number given is a method by which the scammers used to try and gain the victim’s trust.
While there are many "hoax" emails floating around about this scam, some variations of it are true. There is a real scam in which consumers are tricked into dialing international phone numbers, which would result in substantial long-distance charges. That is possible because there are few regions outside the U.S., which includes the Caribbean and Canada, that can be dialed directly without the usual "011" international prefix.
- "809" – Dominican Republic
- "284" – British Virgin Islands
- "876" – Jamaica
And since these numbers are outside the United States, the U.S. requirement to inform callers in advance of any special rates or fees doesn’t apply. However, the hoax is a gross exaggeration of the charges.
In the real scam, perpetrators typically trick victims into dialing the numbers by leaving a message that claims that a relative has been injured or arrested, an unpaid account must be settled, or a cash prize can be claimed, etc. When the victim returns the call, they are kept on the line for as long as possible to run up additional charges. The bill for such a call can be substantial (though not nearly as high as $2,400 per minutes as claimed in some of the hoax emails).
Return calls to familiar numbers only. As a general rule, return calls from numbers that contain familiar or recognizable area codes. You may call your directory assistance or long distance operator to check the area code location.
Carefully read your telephone bill. Make sure that you only receive charges from your provider of choice. Ensure you thoroughly understand charges listed on your phone bill, have chosen to do business with all of the listed providers billing for those charges and have authorized additional fees invoiced. If your local service provider has changed, you will receive a final bill from the former provider and a notice of service disconnection.
If you believe that you have been scammed:
Contact the carrier with whom the charge originated, whose name and toll-free telephone number should be printed on the same bill page as the charge in question. Often, the problem can be resolved with a single phone call.
If the carrier with whom the charge originated does not agree to resolve the problem, contact your carrier to help remove fraudulent charges from the phone bill.
You can also check the location of unfamiliar area codes before dialing. This can be done by simply googling the area code (e.g., area code 809) and viewing the top result.