19 Dangerous Scam Phone Numbers and Area Codes To Avoid

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Scams are becoming more and more prevalent. They’re so common that experts have coined the term “scam economy.” Unfortunately, it’s easy to change a phone number, and scammers often do so to avoid getting caught. The good news is that scams operate in many known area codes, so you can avoid being the next victim simply by watching for known scam phone numbers.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a list of scam phone numbers handy to avoid them altogether? Keep reading to learn more.

19 Area Codes for Common Scam Phone Numbers

More than 300 area codes exist in the United States alone. The good news is that if a scammer is calling, often it will show up under common area codes. Here are 19 area codes you should never answer if you don’t know who’s on the other end.

List of Scam Phone Number Area Codes

  • 216: Cleveland, Ohio
  • 218: Northern Minnesota
  • 232: Sierra Leone
  • 268: Antigua and Barbuda
  • 284: British Virgin Islands
  • 332: New York City
  • 347: New York City 
  • 469: Dallas, Texas
  • 473: Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique
  • 649: Turks and Caicos Islands
  • 646: Manhattan
  • 657: La Palma, California
  • 664: Montserrat
  • 712: Western Iowa
  • 767: Commonwealth of Dominica
  • 809: Dominican Republic
  • 829: Dominican Republic
  • 849: Dominican Republic
  • 876: Jamaica

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What Is a Scam Phone Number or Area Code?

Scam phone numbers and area codes typically involve calls you receive from numbers you don’t recognize. Often there is no customer service you can contact or law enforcement you can involve for these calls obfuscated by distance or sheer volume. Changing a phone number is easy, so it’s challenging to catch every scam phone number out there. 

However, if you get a call from a phone number or area code you don’t know, it’s likely best to avoid picking up the call and research the following before you call back: 

  1. Look at the area code: Start by comparing the phone number’s area code to the list of area codes you should never answer. If it’s on the list, there’s a good chance there’s a scammer on the other end of the line
  2. Search the phone number: Another option to determine if a phone number calling you is likely scam activity is to search for it on Google. Several websites track scam numbers, and a quick Google search may pull one of those sites up. And if it’s a common scam number, you’ll probably find reports from people who have answered.

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3 Common Types of Scam Calls 

Several different types of phone scams exist. Since there is no limit to a scam artist’s potential, recognizing signs of common scams will serve you well. Here are examples of three of the most common scams out there today:

  1. One-ring scams
  2. Traffic pumping scams
  3. Package delivery scams

1. One-Ring Scams

Scammers use one-ring scams to get you, the victim, to call back. The scammers use robo-dialers to call you and hang up after just one ring. When you call back to see who called, they might charge a connectivity fee and per-minute fees for what will appear on your bill as premium services.

In another variation of this scam, the con artists leave voice mails requesting that you call them urgently. They may say you have a sick relative or claim some other urgent matter. When you call back, the longer you stay on the phone, the more money they steal from you.

2. Traffic Pumping Scams

Traffic pumping is also known as access stimulation. It’s based on the way phone services work. When you make a long-distance call, your local carrier gives the call to a long-distance provider. That long-distance provider then covers the call most of the way before handing it off to another local provider. They pay an access fee to that provider for the ability to do so. 

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Local carriers with high access fee rates may make arrangements with other companies with high call volume operations in an attempt to benefit from increased access fee revenues. Although this doesn’t cost you anything personally, it increases the costs of phone services for all.

3. Package Delivery Scams

This scam starts with a text message or voicemail saying you need to take action to receive your package. When you call back or click the link in the text, you end up on a website feedback page that looks like Amazon or another familiar site. On this site, you’re told you have won a prize.

To claim the prize, you need to give your credit card information. However, there’s no prize, and Amazon, UPS and USPS aren’t part of the conversation. Instead, it’s just scammers looking for your credit card number.

Final Take To GO

There will likely always be scams and scam phone numbers out there. The good news is that you can decide not to be the next victim. To avoid being taken advantage of by a scammer, use the following strategies:

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Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about scam phone numbers.
  • How can I check if a phone number is a scam?
    • Search the phone number you suspect is a scam on Google. If anyone has reported it to a website that tracks scams, it should show up in Google's results.
  • What numbers should I not answer?
    • You should only answer phone numbers you know. Scammers learn from their mistakes and tend to evolve with the times. Although there are scam area codes to watch for, which are listed above, scammers now use phone number spoofing to make it look like they're calling from your local area.
    • If you don't know a phone number, let the call go to voicemail and research the number before you call it back. And if they leave a voicemail claiming to be someone you know or a company you do business with, call back at the number you have for the other person or company, not the number that left the voicemail.
  • How can you tell when it's a scammer number?
    • A scammer number is one you don't recognize in your caller ID. Some mobile devices alert you with a "scam likely" notification. Even if you don't have that option, it's good to be able to recognize popular scam phone numbers by the area code. Here are some to know:
      • 216
      • 218
      • 232
      • 268
      • 284
      • 332
      • 347
      • 469
      • 473
      • 649
      • 646
      • 657
      • 664
      • 712
      • 767
      • 809
      • 829
      • 849
      • 876
  • Should I answer 888 numbers?
    • 888 numbers indicate it is a toll-free call. Calls made to toll-free numbers are paid for by the recipient rather than the caller, making them particularly popular among call centers and other businesses. An 888 area code doesn't necessarily indicate that it's a scam, but will most likely be a robocall so answer at your own discretion.
  • What is the scam block number?
    • Depending on your provider, there are several ways to protect yourself from scams. For example, T-Mobile offers a scam blocker where you can download the free Scam Shield app and toggle it on to prevent scam calls.

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Caitlyn Moorhead contributed to the reporting for this article.