Newest Cell Phone Scam Recalls 'Good Old Days' of Dialers

TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS—The seemingly eternal campaign to fraudulently separate consumers from their money continues with a creative twist on the old dialer scams, this time reportedly using cell phones, human psychology and the Turks and Caicos Islands to yet again line the pockets of adult entertainment chat lines.

According to the Denver Post, “Thousands of consumers have complained to federal authorities how they’ll get a single ring before the [cell phone] call disconnects.”

When the consumer to recalls the number on his/her phone, believing the call was an innocent disconnect, it looks like a domestic number.


“Turns out some adult entertainment chat lines in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where the area code is 649 and lies outside the reach of U.S. regulators, are making the hang-up contacts,” the paper reports. “When a consumer calls back, they’re automatically billed for an expensive international call and chat-line charges they never expected.”

The Post amusingly suggests that one way to combat the scam is to have your provider block all outgoing international calls, but of course that only works if you don’t make any calls outside the U.S.

A British overseas territory, the Turks and Caicos Islands economy is mostly centered on tourism and offshore banking. Like other island nations and protectorates, the Turks and Caicos Islands have become havens for tax cheats and shady operators who take advantage of lax laws and corrupt local officials and institutions.

In fact, the islands’ reputations have become so tarnished of late that the British government recently re-imposed direct rule, and, according to the Financial Times, has appointed Helen Garlick, “a respected lawyer who stepped down last year as head of overseas corruption at the Serious Fraud Office, to lead a team set up to investigate and prosecute criminal cases arising from a stinging report published last month on alleged political corruption in the Turks.”

The Garlick investigation is part of a wider British clampdown on former colonies, which, according to FT, is being watched by other overseas territories dealing with graft allegations, such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

“London's takeover of the islands highlights the increasing political discomfort and financial burden Britain faces in running jurisdictions that are relics of the empire but now play a role in the world financial system,” the paper reports.