Americans living in Spain are warned about new phone scam
Stars and Stripes October 10, 2004
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — The Navy is warning Americans stationed in Spain to watch out for a new telephone scam that has duped some U.S. military personnel.
The naval station security department in Rota has received six complaints about the scam from Americans living in town, base spokeswoman Lt. Allie Freeman said.
The victims have told investigators that the scam involves someone calling their home saying they have to call another Spanish number and ask for “Antonio” to pick up a package waiting for them. The caller speaks English.
After they call the number, the person is put on hold and charged as much as 3 euros a minute. The number begins with an 806 prefix, which is similar to calling a U.S.1-900 number.
“It’s pretty ingenious from a scammer’s perspective,” said Lt. Cmdr. Don King, commanding officer of the base’s Legal Assistance Office.
When they call the number, a voice in Spanish tells the caller that they are being charged per minute. Afterward, a person comes on and tries to keep the caller on hold while they “look” for the package.
“Some of these people are staying on the phone for awhile,” King said.
The legal office is trying to help several of the victims to get the Spanish telephone company to drop the phone charges racked up by the scam.
Spain’s national police and the country’s telephone company, Telefonica, have tried to shut down similar scams. Earlier this year, Guardia Civil targeted an Internet scheme that tried to get people to dial 806, 907 and 906 phone numbers. The scam is believed to have affected 45,000 people in Spain and bilked people as much as 35 million euros, according to law enforcement officials.
In Rota, the Navy is telling people to hang up on the phone scam artists and report them to base security. Victims are encouraged to contact the Legal Assistance Office on base or Telefonica to dispute the charges.
Although the telephone company has procedure for disputing calls, King said none of the scam victims have received their money back yet.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the six complaints made to the base security department.