Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Most, if not all, of us have caller ID and we tend to screen calls choosing those calls we’ll pick up and those we won’t. When we see an 800 number on the screen it tells us tells us it’s either a business call or a telemarketing company. But, it could also be a scammer calling and make no mistake there are some very sophisticated scamming companies out there.

We hear more, these days, about online scammers or email scams originating from all over the world with the intent of defrauding people of their identity and/or money. We forget that scammers started out doing this by telephones and they still are. Don’t think that just because you’re using a cell phone you’re safe. Getting people’s cell phones isn’t that difficult these days.

Scammers use 800 numbers; after all they are a business, just not a legal one. Are you familiar
with the 800 prefixes in use in the United States? Not all 800 prefixes are toll-free numbers.

Here’s a test for you: which of these numbers, off the top of your head, isn't a toll-free number? 800, 888, 877, 876, 866, and 855? Keep in mind there are only 5 toll-free number prefixes in current use in the US and the FCC has reserved the prefixes 844, 843, and 822 for future toll-free use. Were you able to pick the bogus one out?

The prefix 876 is not a toll-free prefix. It’s the area code of Jamaica and it’s often mistaken for a toll-free number.  Surprised?

If you’ll notice the pattern established by the FCC for current toll free prefixes, bogus numbers tend to stand out.

The Jamaicans have quite a scamming business going on with the use of their area code and one of their most popular targets are seniors. Even if you aren't a senior, your parents,
grandparents, or aunts and uncle could be. So it’s a problem that affects us all. Sad to say, but this has happened within my family and my stepfather was a successful businessman for years, and is now in his late 70’s. He lost a substantial amount of money and fortunately my mother got suspicious and made mention of the situation and the sibs stepped in and prevented even greater losses. Law enforcement was brought in and legal steps were taken to recoup a portion of his losses and bring the scammers up on charges.

The obvious scams involve alleged lottery winnings. It’s something we get online but also via
phone scams. In fact this “lottery/sweepstakes” scam is on the Better Business Bureau top ten scams of last year. There is quite a list of different frauds/scams and you can check some out at, and another good place is
 and this one also addresses emails etc. Be aware there is also a new medicare scam going around

To compound the problem the scammers try to convince the victims not to tell their family but instead make it a surprise. Oh, it’s a surprise all right. If the scammers feel like they have a potential mark or victim the phone calls will increase in frequency—sometimes hundreds of calls.

Here are some tips from BEWARE: SCAMS FROM AREA CODE 876

§         If you get a call saying you’re a winner – don’t pay any money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. Legitimate operations won’t require you to pay to collect your winnings.
§         It’s against federal law to play a foreign lottery – so if you get a call [or an email] it is likely a scam.
§         Never wire money to anyone with whom you are not familiar.
§         Never provide anyone with personal information such as bank accounts, pin numbers or Social Security numbers.
§         Check any unfamiliar area codes before returning calls.
§         Be aware that there are many 3-digit area codes that connect callers to international telephone numbers – especially 876.
§         If you do not have Caller ID, consider adding it to your phone service. Caller ID allows you to add a Call Intercept feature that screens calls and offers the option to reject suspicious international calls.
§         If you do not make international calls, ask your telephone provider to block outgoing international calls.
§         Contact your phone service provider, local authorities, or the Federal Trade Commission to report a potential scam.

deposit photos
Bottom line is; if it sounds too good to be true it generally's untrue, a lie, fool's gold.

Like my brother puts it, don’t be a stupid schmuck and get…well you get the picture. J


Yolanda Renee said...

So true, if it sounds to good to be true, it is. I get more email scams than phone, but doesn't keep them from trying everything. It's sad that folks fall for it, but I've been scammed and it was done face to face. So it happens, and can happen to all of us - not just the elderly!

L.G. Smith said...

Oh, this just infuriates me. The way they prey on the elderly.

Personally, I never answer my phone unless I recognize the number. Most incoming spammer calls say "blocked" or have an area code I don't recognize, so I just decline them. And the e-mail spam is just as bad. I've had a few that I could easily see how someone less cynical than myself might believe were legitimate. It's just despicable. And I worry a lot about my parents falling for this stuff too.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anyone can fall for a well designed scam, Yolanda. These people are very professional and well prepared. They do a ton of research so they can be believable because that's how they make a living.

I think everyone needs to be prepared for scam artists and when in doubt have someone they can confer with.

Dana Fredsti said...

Very useful post, Sia!

Johanna Garth said...

Sia, my mother and I dealt with the mail scammers as part of the process of putting my grandmother in an assisted living facility. It's horrifying how people prey on the elderly and confused!

~Sia McKye~ said...

LG--Yes, it's good to be a cynic when it comes to things like this.

I hate that people prey on seniors, too. Seniors have spent their life saving money and making arrangements for their retirement and there is always someone out there looking for a way to separate them from their money. :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We see any of those prefixes, we don't answer. I know the ones for family members, and if it's a friend or someone of importance, I figure they will leave a message.

Tara Tyler said...

its a shame we have to be so suspicious these days! i hardly ever answer my phone anymore!

thanks for the heads up!

Jo said...

We too don't answer any 800 numbers or caller unknown either. As Alex says, if it's anything important they will leave a message. Sia is right, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Very rare anything comes easily.

What upsets me is the calls people get saying their grandchild is in trouble and needs money and they fall for it. I think scammers should be hanged, drawn and quartered.

Melanie Schulz said...

Thanks for this Sia- I used to think I was above this until I almost got caught one day.

theikmarket said...

Reminds me of the missed calls I got from a phone number with 876 area code. I didn't know what the calls were for, I didn't bother returning the call either. I thought they were just telemarketing calls. But when I Googled the phone number, your page came up. came up, too, along with several complaints associating the phone number to this Jamaican scam.

~Sia McKye~ said...

The i Market:

Thanks for stopping by. while there are quite a few scams coming from the 876 area code, it's not the only one. But several of the links I included in my article do outline some of the current scams going around and resources to stop them or get help.

Thanks for stopping by!

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Thanks for writing about this scam.

I'm from Jamaica but I had never before heard of this until just now when I read your post. It didn't even come to my mind that the area code for Jamaica is 876. But with different telephone companies such as Vonage, you can get area codes from almost anywhere in the world even if you live in another country.

I will get more info about this.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I did some research. It's rampant. Even Dateline did a story. Thanks for educating me.

Jason Norin said...

We must also remember that not all companies that has a 1800 Number are all credible. :)