Victim, officials speak after phone scam targets Utahns

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a phone call that could cost you big bucks. The Utah Department of Public Safety is warning the public about a scam, specifically targeting Utahns.

The scam is seemingly simple. You'll get a phone call from a 473 area code. All you have to do to get duped? Answer it or call back. The result? Hundreds or potentially thousands of dollars on your next cell phone bill.

One Utah woman FOX 13 News spoke with found a way to protect herself from a potentially big cell phone bill.

"I work as a psychologist," said Valerie Hale, who was home at the time when she was talking on her cell phone. She received another call on the other line. "It was a 473 area code," she said.

Hale said she thought it was a client, so she decided to call back even though there was no voicemail left behind.

"I called it back, and I heard something that was clearly to me sounding pretty X-rated and moaning and loud and a bit on the horrifying side, so I hung it up,” she said.

Disgusted, she texted the number, saying: “never call my phone again.”

It wasn't until she checked social media that Hale realized she had been duped.

"I was checking Facebook on my phone, and a colleague of mine had posted something from The Utah Department of Public Safety about this scam,” she said.

Brian Redd, an investigator with the department, described the phone scam,

“They're calling, requesting a call back to the number, and when people call back to that number they're being charged high phone rates," he said. "In some cases, people are being charged hundreds if not thousands of dollars."

Redd said the 473 area code originates from the Caribbean nation of Grenada. Victims will get one of two phone calls: the x-rated version Valerie endured or a person acting like they're in distress.

"Our cyber investigators are working on a daily basis with the FBI to deal with these as best as we can, but, as you know, there are hundreds and hundreds of scams out there going on all the time," Redd said.

The best thing you can do is arm yourself with information and be aware of the scams out there. If you do fall victim like Valerie did, be proactive. She alerted her cell phone company.

"They put a temporary block on that particular number on my phone," said Valerie, who even got her cell phone carrier to send her an email promising to work with her if any unauthorized charges are posted to her bill.

"I think most victims of crime, small ones like this or big crimes, the first thing you feel is stupid that somehow it happened to you, so therefore it's your fault, but I realized this isn't my fault,” she said. “I thought it was a client. I called it back, and I sure got an earfull."

Bob Kelly with Verizon Wireless said customers should call customer care right away if they've called this number back, and they will work with customers on an individual basis to resolve possible charges, which is exactly what Valerie did, and she went the extra step to get it in writing.

1 Comment

  • Kaleb Kunzler

    There are far easier ways to combat this at both personal and legislative levels.

    At the personal level, contact your phone company and disable ALL third-party billing and international calling except for numbers/countries specifically desired. Yes, Qwest, att, and Verizon all can and will do this, I haven’t worked with the rest but imagine that they can offer the same.

    At the legislative level REQUIRE all third-party billing agreements and any changes made to ones phone services to be accompanied by written notarized statements from the customer giving permission to allow the third party billing or phone service change.

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