Ask Andy: 809 area code scam - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andy Wise

Ask Andy: 809 area code scam

Many viewers and even some of my colleagues here at Action News 5 have been forwarding me e-mails warning "don't call numbers with an 809 area code."

The e-mails appear just like all the rest of those "urban legend" e-mails that friends mindlessly dump into your e-mailbox.

Except this one is not an urban legend.  It's real, however highly exaggerated.

The 809 area code scams starts with an UNSOLICITED PHONE CALL. It can also be a message left on your voice mail.

The caller breathlessly tells you that you have WON A PRIZE, or a FAMILY MEMBER IS SICK OR HAS BEEN KILLED, or you owe some UNPAID DEBT.

The message says you have to call a number with an 809 area code for directions or further information.  Call that number, and you forfeit your phone service to a foreign source.  That source starts billing your local phone service for international calls.  You'll end up having to pay for those calls.

This actually has happened.  In 1998, I assisted the Mississippi Attorney General's investigation of several 809 area code scams that targeted about a dozen consumers all over North Mississippi.  We were able to trace the originating calls to the Dominican Republic, but never to a specific person.

But the exaggeration is about the frequency of the scam.  It almost never happens anymore.  As far as in the Mid-South, I'm not aware of a single legitimate 809 area code scam attempt since our investigation 11 years ago.

This brings up a great resource.  Anytime you get an urban legend e-mail, you can go to  That is the most accurate and most legitimate resource for proving or debunking urban legends.  The site has a staff that runs down every one of those annoying things.

In fact, here's's listing about the 809 area code scam:



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