Telephone Scam is a Hoax

Go ahead and dial 90#. It really won't cost you anything.

The Scam

Today I received from another friend a cleverly worded email hoax. Even police detectives have fallen for this one [more below] so it's no statement against my friend that she did too.

Because my friend considers the person who sent her the mesage to be 'reliable', B promptly forwarded it to every person in her address book. I didn't figure that out telepathically - the proof was in front of my eyes.

The email address of everyone B knows was right there in the To: section of her message along with mine. The subject of why it's better to hide your recipients addresses is a whole 'nother article. The good news is that it's much simpler now for B's friends to plan her surprise birthday party, because we all have each other's email addresses. Hmmm . . . definitely something to think about doing some day soon.

The 'Dial 90# Telephone Scam' hoax circulates the false rumour that a thief masquerading as a phone company operator or repair person can charge to a person's phone bill several thousand dollars of international calls if the owner enables remote international call authorization by dialing the keys 90# on his phone while the would-be thief is on the line with him.

None of this nonsense is true. If you do happen to dial 90# from your home or cellphone you most certainly won't incur extra phone expenses. Dialing 90# does not enable any one to do anything to your wireless or to your landline phone. Or to run up your bill either.

Truth or Fiction?

It isn't so hard to identify an email scam. Like many other scams found on or off the internet, email scams and hoaxes urge you to put aside your reservations about whether the message is true or not and act immediately to prevent tragedy from befalling people you know.

Any variation of 'send this to everyone you know' in an email's text is another wink that what you're being asked to forward is probably just a hoax.

This is the message I received from my friend B today:

The following came from a friend:

90# on the telephone


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

Upon contacting the telephone company, I was informed that by pushing 90#, you give the requesting individual full access to your telephone line, which enables them to place long distance calls billed to your home phone number.

I was further informed that this scam has been originating from many local jails/prisons. I have also verified this information with UCB Telecom,Pacific Bell, MCI, Bell Atlantic and GTE. Please beware.

DO NOT press 90# for ANYONE.

The GTE Security Department requested that I share this information with EVERYONE I KNOW.

PLEASE pass this on to everyone YOU know.

If you have mailing lists and/or newsletters from organizations you are connected with, I encourage you to pass on this information to them.

After checking with Verizon they said it was true, so do not dial (9),zero(0), the pound sign # and hang up for anyone.


Hoax, Myth or Legend?

My left eyebrow is my untruth meter. Two sentences into this email it twitched, so without delay I paid a visit to my favorite hoaxbusters site, To my great surprise, searches for 90#, plain old 90 and Telephone Scam yielded nothing. This is the first time that vmyths has ever let me down.

Checks on other sites I use to verify myths didn't yield any hits either. The search terms I used may have been incompatible with how those sites have indexed this hoax. The hoax is old. I eventually found archived copies of emails discussing it which date back to 1998.

On to Plan B. When other resources fail, my motto is GOOGLE! Google's results on the string telephone scam press 90 were a lot more impressive.

Along with a warning posted by the Walpole, MA Police Detectives on their Walpole PD scam alert page, is another Google entry pointing to the fraud division of the state of Vermont's Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Computer Crimes Unit.

Walpole Detectives might benefit from a revision day in cyber-school, but the Vermont Police have pinned this one dead on. They report the purported 'Telephone Scam' for what it is - simply one more internet hoax. Vermont State deserves an award for providing the most accessible education on what the hoaxes' maker wants to make us believe will be put in motion if we do dial #90 on our phone's keypad.

But Jonathan de Boyne Pollard captures the award for in-depth reporting with his 'Frequently Given Answer' to this hoax.

Do hoaxes cost anything?

The source of what turned out to be the most interesting facts about hoaxes and how much waste they cost is the U. S. Department of Energy's CIAC website. This should not have surprised me. It makes great sense that the DOE calculates the cost of labor waste or productivity, relative to email. Labor actually is energy, isn't it? and when you get right down to it, calculating the cost of email management might very well be one of the fundamental reasons that the energy department exists.

And yet I was surprised by how much good information the DOE has compiled.

Being that they are a branch of the federal government, I'm not sure that the DOE can qualify for the Award for Proving Kimi's Point [point: why I feel strongly about stopping the circulation of hoaxes and urban myths]. I'm checking into this. Meanwhile, do check out the DOE site to learn how circulating just one pointless email translates in the blink of an eye to millions of dollars of wasted working time. These figures are big-time [sic] eye openers!

Verify. Then send.

Next time you get ready to forward on to your address book the latest flavour of dire warning fresh in from the desktop of someone you trust, ask yourself this question relevant to the imparting of important news . . .

Have I verified my facts thoroughly? If you're not sure you have, this article on 'false authority' might encourage you to get busy!

I also suggest that greater harmony in our professional relationships might result if we take to heart the caution with which a programmer colleague signs each one of his discussion list contributions. 'Google is your friend. Not me.'

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