Telephone Safety

Tips

  • Never list your address in the phone book.
  • Use your first initial and last name in the phone book.
  • If you have a landline phone, use an answering machine to take calls when you are away from home. Have the out-going message say that you cannot come to the phone, not that you are not at home. Turn the ringer down so it cannot be heard from the outside.
  • In cases of emergency, know what number to dial (911) and what to say when calling.
  • Don't give any personal information if called about surveys, contests, subscription drives, purchases or deliveries until the source of the call has been verified. Ask for the phone number at which the caller can be reached, and confirm it with what is listed in the phone book or online.
  • Never give your name, address, or phone number to someone you don’t know.
  • Never give any information to “wrong number” callers; ask for the number the caller is trying to dial.
  • Always give the impression you are not alone.
  • If the caller asks for someone who is not there, say that person can’t come to the phone and ask for a name and number.
  • When you realize the caller is obscene or harassing, hang up immediately. Do not listen or show any emotional response. Report continuing incidents to the telephone company and police.
  • A blast from a whistle should not be used to discourage obscene or harassing phone calls.
  • If all else fails, change your phone number and have it unlisted.

Telephone Harassment

Repeated hang-ups, anonymous obscene phone calls and threatening email messages are all examples of harassment, the most common of which is telephone harassment.

Harassment is defined as an offense with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment or embarrass by telephone or writing. Harassment is also a communication that is obscene or threatening.

Individuals who receive harassing, annoying or threatening telephone calls are encouraged to contact UTPD for assistance. Two recommendations:

  • Inititiate a call trace from a campus phone.
  • Maintain a telephone log that documents the dates and times of calls. This will be helpful in determining what measures the police may pursue.

Harassment is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail.

Scams

Being scammed is just a phone call away — a phone call to area code 809. This popular scam could cost you more than $100 for a few minutes of your time.

The scam plays something like this: You receive an email message, a message on your answering machine or on your pager urging you to immediately call an 809 area code. The message may tell you to call to avoid the cancellation of your email account, to get information on a relative in danger or to claim a prize. If you call from the United States, you may be charged as much as $25 per minute.

What lies on the other end of the receiver varies from a person speaking broken English to a long recorded message, both aimed at keeping you on the phone as long as possible. The 809 area code is in the Bahamas and can be used as a “pay-per-call” number similar to a 900 number. But unlike 900 numbers in the United States, 809 area codes do not have to conform to laws set up to avoid scams such as this one.

U.S. regulations require that you be warned of charges and rates involved and that the company provide a period during which you may hang up without being charged. In addition, many U.S. phones have 900-number blocking, but this is not available for the 809 area code.

The chances of getting the charges dropped are slim, according to the nonprofit Internet Scambusters. The easiest way to avoid this hassle is not to return any calls with the 809 area code until you have investigated further.