Sylvia's Blog

This blog was created in memory of my mother, Sylvia Siegel, who passed away peacefully in her sleep on 8/18/2007. It's intended to serve as a collection point for articles written about her, and for any type of anecdotes that anyone would care to share. So feel free to post entries and share. If you want to be added to the list of contributors, just send me an e-mail and I'll add you to the list. Also in my mom's memory, I will use this as a vehicle to post consumer-oriented information, especially related to telecommunications.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Harassing calls from area code 876 (Jamaica phone scam)

Although this is my mom's blog, I thought it would be appropriate to post a consumer alert here. She might have appreciated whatever small steps I might take to carry on in her footsteps.

Here's the situation: in the past couple of weeks, I've been getting harassing calls from Jamaica (the country) to my cellphone. Needless to say this is disruptive and annoying, since I get several a day.

Here are the numbers I've received calls from (thus far -- I'll update the list as I get more):

(876) 375-9740
(876) 441-3652
(876) 303-5893
(876) 470-0341
(876) 584-4405
(876) 491-9206

These calls are a scam, and the people who are calling are trying
to get you to call them back so you'll incur international phone charges, of which they apparently get a cut. In addition, it may also be a scam to try to get personal information, but having never called them back I am not certain of that. I know others who are also getting these types of calls, and I'm very concerned that people will call the numbers back, because the message they leave is somewhat compelling, and the number, coming from 876, looks like it's a toll-free number. So most people would be tempted to call the number back.

What to do about them? I have an iPhone, which does not allow me to block a number. Apparently other phones, like the Treo, have third-party applications which allow you to block any number. I also use AT&T, which doesn't allow you to block numbers except by buying an extra service for $5/month, which I don't think I should have to pay. AT&T offered to allow me to change my phone number for free, but again, that's not something I want to do or feel I should have to do. So, while the customer service people at AT&T were nice, they were unable to help me. Repeated calls were unable to get them to give me the blocking service for free, although I do know from experience that calling multiple times often gets you to someone who can solve your problem.

I complained to the FCC and TURN, and am waiting to hear back from both. I also wrote to Interpol, and here's what they had to say:

Dear Madam,

Thank you for your e-mail.
INTERPOL offices are unable to deal with such enquiries from members of the public.
In response to your request we would advise you to contact your local police
authorities directly, who will be able to assess the circumstances and will know how
to access the appropriate INTERPOL channels if required.


Press Office

Not much help. I've written to my local PD, and we'll see where that goes from here.

If any of you out there have run into this problem and figured out how to solve it, please let me know!