9-0-# Telephone Scam

The 9-0-# telephone scam is primarily directed at businesses, hospitals, government agencies, and other organizations that use telephone switching equipment known as private branch exchanges (PBXs) to manage calls.

This specific type of fraud involves an individual who identifies himself as a telephone service technician. The fraudulent caller advises the customer that he is testing the telephone line and convinces the customer to help by transferring him to an outside line (by pressing 9-0-#) and hanging up the telephone. This leaves the fraudulent caller with access to the outside line and can then make long distance calls that are billed to the business.

Numerous websites provide telephone consumers with background on this type of fraud as well as tips on how to avoid becoming a target of a 9-0-# telephone scam. For example, the West Virginia Consumer Protection and Anti-Trust Office advises customers to hang up the telephone and immediately report the incident to their telephone company. The University of Missouri informs telephone consumers that this common scam often originates from payphones, jails, and prisons. Further, the University advises the public that true service technicians have the resources needed to conduct all of the required tests remotely from their workstations.

Below is a list of tips consumers should keep in mind:

  • Be aware that an individual might impersonate a telephone company technician to gain access to your telephone line.
  • A telephone company service technician does not call customers and ask them to help check telephone lines.
  • If someone makes such a request by asking you to press 9-0-#, either: (1) ask the caller for a “call-back” number or for the name and number of the caller’s supervisor or (2) hang up. Report the caller’s request to your telephone company immediately.
  • Although this scam does not usually affect residential customers, all household members, including children and the elderly, should be advised not to automatically complete calls for individuals who state they are telephone employees.
  • Because the main targets for this type of activity are businesses, office managers should make their staffs aware of the 9-0-# telephone scam and review how to handle the situation should it arise.