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If you see one of these area codes don’t answer — It’s probably a scam

Email and text messages from scammers usually show signs that you’re dealing with a crook. There are spelling errors, threats to act now and suspicious links. It’s not always so easy to tell when a phone call is coming from a scammer, but we’re here to help. Tap or click here for five surefire phrases that you’re talking to a scammer on the phone.

It turns out there’s yet another way to tell when you’re dealing with a phone scammer: the area code. These three digits indicate the regional location of a phone number within the United States.

How can an area code tell you that a scammer is calling? Read on to find out.

The ol’ area code switcheroo

When you get a call from a number that is outside the country, it’s a red flag. Unless you’re expecting a call from Nigeria, don’t answer it!

Clever crooks have found a workaround, reports. They’re making their calls using an area code (473) that appears to be domestic but is actually the area code for the island of Grenada and other islands. Despite being outside the U.S., these areas use the same country code as ours: +1.

There are a few ways scammers are targeting victims via these numbers:

  • They call and hang up before anyone answers. They’ll use an autodialer to do this several times, hoping you’ll eventually call back.
  • They’ll also call and play a recording of someone in distress and then hang up. Again, they’re banking on you calling back.
  • They also employ this trick while pretending to be someone in authority: a collection agency, member of law enforcement or doctor treating a relative.
  • In the third version of the scam, a criminal sends a text message similar to the voice recording trick. They’ll write that they need help and need you to text or call back. The message may seem like it was sent to the wrong person by accident, but it went exactly where it needs to go — an unsuspecting victim.

If you call or text back a 473 number, you’ll quickly run up your phone bill. This is similar to earlier scams involving numbers with a 900 area code. Remember those?

If someone is in distress, why would they call a stranger? They’d call their local authorities. Don’t engage with these liars.

RELATED: Warning: Scammers are pretending to be your cable and internet company

Watch out for these other area codes, too

Scammers run these campaigns from outside the U.S. while making you think they’re calling from inside the country.

In addition to the 473 and 900 area codes, here are more area codes that should raise red flags for you.

International area codes that use the +1 country code:

  • 242 — Bahamas
  • 441 — Bermuda
  • 784 — St. Vincent and Grenadines
  • 246 — Barbados
  • 473 — Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique
  • 809, 829 and 849 — Dominican Republic
  • 264 — Anguilla
  • 649 — Turks and Caicos
  • 868 — Trinidad and Tobago
  • 268 — Antigua
  • 664 — Montserrat
  • 876 — Jamaica
  • 284 — British Virgin Islands
  • 721 — Sint Maarten
  • 758 — St. Lucia
  • 869 — St. Kitts and Nevis
  • 345 — Cayman Islands
  • 767 — Dominica

U.S. Territories that use the +1 country code

  • American Samoa — 684
  • Guam — 671
  • Northern Mariana Islands — 670
  • Puerto Rico — 787 and 939
  • U.S. Virgin Islands — 340

Remember, scammers can spoof phone numbers from any area code, not just the ones listed here.

The bottom line: If you don’t recognize a phone number, don’t answer. If it’s a legitimate important call, they’d leave a voicemail.

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