Avoid scammers: don’t answer calls or texts from these area codes

(WSVN) - Scammers are always coming up with different ways to take your hard-earned cash. Now they are hiding behind certain area codes that appear to be U.S. numbers, but are actually international.

Inc.com points out three variations of the latest scam, all of which aim to get you to call or text the numbers back.

In the first version of the scam, criminals use robo-dialers to call their potential victims, and hang up before anyone picks up the phone. The idea is to make the recipient curious about who the caller is, with the aim to get the victim to call back. Sometimes they will call several times in a row, increasing the chances that the person will return the call.

Another variant waits for the target to answer, then plays a recording of someone pleading for help or being attacked before hanging up. The third version of the scam operates much like this, except using text messages to ask for help.

“A consumer may get a call from an area code they don’t recognize on their answering service, and it’ll say, give us a call, we have a relative of yours in jail, we have a relative of yours in the hospital or you’ve won a large prize,” explained Leo Marsh, regional director for AT&T, to Fox 8.

All of these schemes aim to get victims to call or text the numbers back because the numbers are considered “premium” – meaning you will be charged for any calls or text to them. The numbers are set up similarly to 900 numbers, which charge users per minute for calls.

“I’ve heard of some and seen some (phone bills) that were in the thousands (of dollars),” Marsh said.

The scam is commonly called the “473 scam” because criminals would use the 473 area code. It appears to be a domestic call since it uses the +1 country code for the U.S., but is actually an area code for Grenada. Scammers have since graduated to using other international area codes that appear to be from the United States in an effort to trick victims. AARP says calls to any of these international numbers can cost upwards of $5 per minute.

So unless you know anyone from the following countries, it’s best to not answer or return calls from these area codes:

242 – Bahamas

441 – Bermuda

784 – St. Vincent and Grenadines

246 – Barbados

473 – Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique

809, 829, and 849 – Dominican Republic

264 – Anguilla

649 – Turks and Caicos

868 – Trinidad and Tobago

268 – Antigua

664 – Montserrat

876 – Jamaica

284 – British Virgin Islands

721 – Sint Maarten

758 – St. Lucia

869 – St. Kitts and Nevis

345 – Cayman Islands

767 – Dominica

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