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Telephone Safety

Tips

Telephone Harassment

Repetitive hang-ups, anonymous obscene phone calls and threatening e-mail messages are all examples of harassment, the most common of which is telephone harassment.

Harassment is defined as an offense with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment or embarrass by telephone or writing. Harassment is also a communication which is obscene or threatening.

Individuals who receive harassing, annoying or threatening telephone calls are encouraged to contact the UT Police for assistance. Two recommendations:

Harassment is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail.

Scams

Being scammed is just a phone call away — a phone call to area code 809. This popular scam could cost you more than $100 for a few minutes of your time.

The scam plays something like this: You receive an e-mail message, a message on your answering machine or on your pager urging you to immediately call an 809 area code. The message may tell you to call to avoid the cancellation of your e-mail account, to get information on a relative in danger or to claim a prize. If you call from the United States, you may be charged as much as $25 per minute.

What lies on the other end of the receiver varies from a person speaking broken English to a long recorded message, both aimed at keeping you on the phone as long as possible. The 809 area code is located in the Bahamas and can be used as a “pay-per-call” number similar to a 900 number. But unlike 900 numbers in the United States, 809 area codes do not have to conform to laws set up to avoid scams like this one.

U.S. regulations require that you be warned of charges and rates involved and that the company provide a time period during which you may hang up without being charged. In addition, many U.S. phones have 900-number blocking, but this is not available for the 809 area code.

The chances of getting the charges dropped are slim, according to the Internet Scambusters. In a message sent out over the Internet October 23, Scambusters warns that both your local phone company and your long distance carrier may say they were simply providing the billing for the foreign company. The foreign company can argue it has done nothing wrong and you may still be stuck with the bill because you made the call. The easiest way to avoid this hassle is not to return any calls with the 809 area code until you have investigated further.