90# Telephone Scam

Viral Alert Warns Customers Not To Follow Instructions

 Urban legends about phones are extremely common. One of the most prevalent is the one about not dialing #90 or #09, due to threats from terrorists.

1998 Example

Subject: Fwd: Phone Scam (fwd)

Hi everyone,

A friend sent me this e-mail today to warn me and anyone else of yet another phone scam. Beware.

I received a telephone call from an individual identifying himself as an AT&T Service Technician that was running a test on our telephone lines. He stated that to complete the test I should touch nine (9), zero (0), pound sign(#) and hang up. Luckily, I was suspicious and refused.

Upon contacting the telephone company we were informed that by pushing 90# you end up giving the individual that called you access to your telephone line and allows them to place a long distance telephone call, with the charge appearing on your telephone bill. We were further informed that this scam has been originating from many of the local jails/prisons.

Please pass the word.

Analysis if this Legend

As shocking as this may sound, the "nine-zero-pound" story is sort of true. 

What the warning letter floating around the internet doesn't say is that this scam only works on telephones where you have to dial 9 to get an outside line. Unless you have to dial 9 to get an outside line at home, this scam does not affect residential telephone users. Dialing "nine-zero-pound" on a residential phone will only give you a busy signal. That's it.

On some business phones, however, dialing "nine-zero-pound" may transfer a call to an outside operator and give the caller the opportunity to call anywhere in the world and charge it to your business' phone bill ... maybe. It all depends on how your business' telephone system is set up. If your company doesn't require you to dial 9 to get an outside line (for example, if you have a direct outside telephone line on your desk or if your company's phone system requires you to dial a number other than 9 to get an outside line) the "nine-zero-pound" scam does not affect you. Also, if your company's phone system is set up so that you cannot make a long distance call once you have accessed an outside line (a lot of companies now limit all outside lines to local calls only), the "nine-zero-pound" scam does not affect you either.

The "nine-zero-pound" story only affects those businesses that require you to dial 9 to get an outside line and then place no restrictions on who or where you can call once you get that outside line. However, keep in mind that for residential phone users, and particularly for cell phone users, there is no danger of dialing any combination of the listed numbers. This legend may have been somewhat true 20 years ago, but with new technology, is not an issue any longer. However, every now and again it pops up in chain letters to cause more confusion and worry.