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Don't Answer Calls From These Area Codes

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In 2023, 21% of Americans lost $25.4 billion in phone scams. Despite the year-on-year decrease in fraud losses, this is still an alarming finding, considering that one in five among us is at risk of losing money to a deceptive caller.

From one-ring calls that connect you to premium numbers to impersonation swindles that siphon money by mimicking well-known organizations, the elaborate schemes you could encounter via a phone call can take a variety of formats.

And they are not just limited to financial fraud; Some are designed to steal identifiable data, such as social security numbers, tax IDs, and online account passwords.

However, according to experts, you can identify many of these shady calls by watching out for certain area codes.


Area Codes Frequently Associated With Phone Scams

Some three-digit area codes can be misleading at first glance. Despite resembling US codes, they could actually originate from a faraway country.

Take one-ring calls, for example. These are typically initiated from overseas using numbers with area codes that may seem familiar to an American resident. If you assume they are local and call back, you could end up connecting to international numbers that bill you at a premium rate for every minute you stay on the phone.

To protect yourself from such fraudulent schemes, it is important to recognize and avoid calls from numbers bearing specific area codes that could potentially get you into trouble.

Here are the codes often connected to phone scams.


232 and 268

These might seem like typical US 2XX area codes. But, in fact, 232 is the country code of Sierra Leone, while +1 268 is used by Antigua and Barbuda.


441 and 473

The code +1 441 is assigned to Bermuda and +1 473 to Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique.


649 and 664

These belong to Turks and Caicos and Montserrat—both part of the British Overseas Territory using the +1 country code.


767 and 784

The islands of Dominica and St. Vincent use these area codes. Calls originating from Grenadines can also have +1 784.


809, 829, and 849

All these belong to the Dominican Republic.

Other 8XX area codes to keep an eye on are 868 and 876. The first is used by Trinidad and Tobago, while the second code is from Jamaica.


Keep in mind that there are other three-digit codes that could be just as misleading as what we have listed above.

The easiest way to identify an unsafe area code is by researching it online.

For instance, if you receive a call from a 2XX number, look for it on Nuwber’s US 2XX area code list. If it doesn’t appear there, chances are you are dealing with an international call, likely generated by a fraudster based overseas.

But, verifying area codes will only solve half of the problem. Today, spoofing technology allows malicious actors to disguise their numbers to resemble those from your local area. SIM swapping is also common, which enables criminals to contact you using numbers you already know.

So, how can you remain safe from all these fraudulent practices? We discuss it next.


Identifying Phone Fraud to Mitigate Threats

Despite their diverse nature, a majority of call scams display similar patterns. By understanding these, you can easily identify deceptive attempts and take relevant measures to protect yourself.

Typical signs of a scam include:


  • One-Ring Calls

Scammers usually deploy these to get you to call them back.

This could serve one of two purposes—to charge you for a premium international call or to check whether your number is in use so fraudsters could target you for their rackets.

Either way, if you ever receive a one-ring call, it is best to ignore it.


  • Automated Calls

By providing a voice response or pressing specific phone keys to respond to automated instructions, you are letting bad actors know that your phone number is in active use.

Once they confirm there is a real human on the other side, they will start directing spam and scam-related calls to you. Some can also use your voice recordings for deepfake and spoofing-based unlawful activities.

Of course, this doesn’t mean all robocalls are malicious. Legitimate organizations use them, too, to provide a variety of services.

So, answering system-generated calls could be important at times. But, to avoid possible threats to your safety, practice extra caution when following automated instructions.


  • Undue Urgency

A sense of urgency can prevent you from effectively assessing a situation and making sound decisions.

Scammers know this well. This is why they would often pressure their victims to act or respond quickly.

For instance, an IRS imposter might threaten to call the police unless you immediately pay up what they claim is a pending tax payment. Similarly, a shady telemarketer could push you into an impulsive purchase by offering a limited-time discount.

Naturally, avoiding hasty decisions is critical for preventing such schemes.


  • Questionable Payment Methods 

When it comes to financial transactions, fraudsters prefer gift cards, cryptocurrency, and similarly unusual methods. These are difficult to trace after they are processed, and you have little chance of recovering your losses. Even wire transfers and prepaid debit cards fall under this category.

So, proceed with caution when a caller insists you use any of these transaction methods for regular payments that could be done using a credit card.


  • Requests for Personal Data

Be suspicious of anyone asking for identifiable data over the phone. Remember, to ensure customer safety, legitimate organizations would never request personal information, such as your SSN, date of birth, or account credentials, via phone calls.

Anyone who does is likely an imposter.


  • Vague Information

Bad actors who impersonate reputed entities or familiar individuals could be surprisingly convincing. However, if you pay close attention and probe with the right questions, you can easily detect gaps or discrepancies in their stories.


Final Thoughts

Fraudulent calls can take multiple formats. However, by learning to identify common red flags, you can effectively prevent or minimize their threats.

As a general rule of thumb, let the call go unanswered if you are unsure who is calling. You can always reverse search the phone number to learn more about the caller before returning their call. Installing a caller ID app is another option to identify numbers so you could skip unwanted calls.