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Check Caller ID to avoid scams

Thursday - 3/8/2012, 9:48am  ET

Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Think before picking up or returning calls to numbers you don't recognize. Calls from area codes such as 809, 284 or 876 might be attempts to rip you off.

The scam lets crooks steal your money by simply getting you on the phone. Numbers that look harmless may be for an out-of-country connection using a phone carrier that charges exhorbitant rates.

The goal is to keep you on the line for as long as possible while charging up to $3.99 a minute.

AARP Magazine says many of these scams operate out of Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the British Virgin Islands or other Caribbean islands. Some area codes for those locations to beware of include 809, 284, 649, and 876.

The initial solicitation may say you've won a trip or prize or that additional information is needed from you to receive a delivery. Getting you on the phone in those cases is a potential win win for the rip-off artists.

Even if the scammers don't get personal information to use for nefarious reasons, they still can get your money by over charging for the phone call.

The Federal Communications Commission warns this ploy also is targeting cell phone users. The call might leave voice mail asking you to phone back, or the call may disconnect after a few rings to lure you into returning the call.

AT&T suggests you avoid the area code scam by returning phone calls only to familiar numbers.

You also can check online for the cities and countries served by specific area codes.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)