If you call an unfamiliar telephone number, you may end up paying a lot of money for an international telephone call.  Advertisements and promotions may tempt consumers into calling international phone numbers.  They may promise information and other services (i.e. psychic readings, chat lines, etc.).  If you call, you may actually be calling an international “pay-per-call” number.  This may end up in a costly phone bill.  Each country has its own telephone rates with no limit to the per-minute charge.  The companies running these ads receive a portion of the long-distance charge.

What Type of Information Should I Know before I Call?

There are certain things that you should know before making a call to an unfamiliar phone number:

  • Find out where you are calling – Usually, you have to dial “011” before making a call to a foreign country.  However, some locations will only require that you dial the area code and number.  They may look like domestic long distance calls, but are really international numbers.
  • Be smart when telephone shopping – International telephone number scams are similar to “900” numbers because you pay for services simply by dialing a phone number.  However, domestic pay-per-call numbers are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission’s 900 Number Rule.  These rules do not apply to international pay-per-call telephone numbers.
  • Be alert to scams – Promotion of international pay-per-call numbers may come in unique ways.  You may get messages on your answering machine, email, or pager telling you to call an international number.  If you return the call, you may end up paying for it in your phone bill.

How Can I Protect Myself?

If you are presented with an ad for an information or entertainment service, or receive a call from such a company, you should remember:

  • Be skeptical of ads for services that claim they are “not a 900 number,” “LD rates apply,” or “no premiums apply.”  These services may be even more costly than 900 numbers.
  • Make sure you check your phone bill for charges you do not recognize.  Contact your phone company and long distance carrier if you see any error.
  • Be wary of area codes you do not recognize (i.e. 809 for the Dominican Republic or 664 for Montserrat).  You can check their location in the telephone directory or by calling the operator.
  • Tell your family that they need to get your permission before calling any long-distance services (domestic or international).  This applies especially to children.

If you have a complaint, you can also contact the state Attorney General or the Federal Communications Commission’s National Call Center.

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with International Telephone Number Scams?

An entertainment lawyer would be able to help you determine whether you are a victim to an international telephone number scam.  A lawyer would also be able to counsel you on whether any legal remedies are available or how you may go about filing a complaint.