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Beware of Toll-free Number Scams

In the toll-free number scam (also known as toll-free number hijacking), some bad person gets a phone number that is similar to a popular toll-free one – usually slightly modified – to fool unsuspecting people. For example, if the toll-free line to a service in your area is 888, someone can set up a number like 868 and publicize that as a toll-free line. This is then used to fool people into calling.

The unsuspecting person then calls the number, expecting to not be billed or charged. Of course, they get charged for the call, typically at a premium tariff. Even when the amount the caller pays per call is small, it is the volume effect that counts to the scammers. Getting a few cents or dollars from hundreds of thousands of people means they make a lot of money. And that is the way the bad people make money off unsuspecting people. That is how the foll-free number scam works, in a nutshell.

Beware of Toll-free Number Scams

What is a toll-free number, and how does it work?

A toll-free number is a dedicated phone line that allows callers to reach a public service or business organization for help, without being charged. It is usually a three-digit number. When you call a toll-free number, it is at no cost to you. All incoming calls are charged to the owner of the toll-free line by a pre-determined arrangement with the telephone company providing the service.

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When someone calls a fake toll-free line, in reality, they end up calling a premium number, or an international number, and get charged heavily. The scammer makes money this way, and it adds up, depending on how many people they get to call the number.

For example, you might receive a telephone call or voicemail from someone claiming to be from a delivery service, and they would ask you to call a toll-free line for a package with your name on it. The provided toll-free number would be a scam operation and cost you money, should you call it.

How to identify a toll-free number scam

Being well-informed is the best way to fortify yourself against foll-free number scams. Find out the valid toll-free numbers in your area. If you have any doubts about a number, do not call it. Also, only call toll-free numbers listed on the websites and materials of legitimate business organizations. They always have their numbers listed on their websites. If you receive a telephone call or voicemail claiming to be from a legitimate organization, with a callback request, go to that organization’s website to verify the number. if the number is not listed there, you are likely being targeted by a toll-free number scam. Don’t call that number.

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One of the things that toll-free number scammers are counting on is the fact that the amount spent on each of these calls is not a big deal for many people. It isn’t about how little they succeed in skimming off you; it is about not making these scam operations profitable for the scammers.


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