Hoaxes & Rumors

Dial 90 Scam: Real or Hoax?

Dial 90 Scam: Real or Hoax?

A popular internet warning urges callers to avoid scammers who instruct you to dial 90 or 09 on your telephone which would allow them to make phone calls from your phone number.

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The scam is real, but the warning does not apply to most residential or mobile phones.

The “dial 90 scam” was more prevalent in the 1990s than it is now, although it is believed to still occur on rare occasion. Perhaps most important point to make is that this scam is only possible for phones served by private branch exchange (PBX) or private automatic branch exchange (PABX) – thus, it is aimed almost exclusively at businesses.

A good rule of thumb to remember is that unless you have to dial “9” to reach an outside line, this scam does not apply to you.

Let’s take a look at the 2013 incarnation of this “dial 90 scam” warning:

Don’t press #90 or #09 on mobile Phone…
Please take care IF SOMEONE ASKS YOU TO DIAL #09 or #90.
Please Do Not Dial This When Asked.
Please circulate URGENTLY.
New Trick of Terrorists to Frame Innocent People!!
If you receive a phone call on your Mobile from any person saying that they are checking your mobile line, and you have to press #90 or #09 or any other number.
End this call immediately without pressing any numbers.
Team there is a fraud company using a device that once you press #90 or #09 they can access your SIM card and make calls at your expense.
Forward this message to as many friends as u can, to stop it. This information has been confirmed by both Motorola and Nokia. There are over 3 million affected mobile phones. You can check this news at CNN website also.

The following graphic below has been circulating for a few years.

Dial 90 Scam

Here is the 2013 warning of the #90 scam, which contains mostly incorrect information.

The above warning takes liberties with details of the real 90# scam, which has existed since the early 1990s. Several falsehoods exist in the warning above:

  • The warning above states the scam involves dialing “#90” when it is actually “90#”
  • Dialing 90# or 09# or #90 or #09 will not allow access to the SIM card on your cell phone
  • This scam does NOT apply to mobile phones at all
  • The scam only applies to phones located in the United States
  • We found no articles confirming that CNN, Motorola, or Nokia mentioned this scam
  • The link at the bottom of the warning above does not point to a web page that exists
  • There is no evidence the original scam was perpetrated by “terrorists.”

FCC Response

The FCC has created a page related to this scam.  They imply this only happens to businesses, “You receive a call at your office from someone claiming to be a telephone company…”

AT&T Response

In their Smart Controls safety information, AT&T acknowledges this scam.  They claim that if you follow the scammer’s instructions, “you may be enabling the caller to place calls that are billed to your home or office telephone number.” It is suggested that if you feel you have fallen for this scam that you should review your phone bill and contact customer service.

Bottom Line

The 90# scam is real, but it only exists for phone numbers in the United States which must dial 9 to reach an outside line, and was more prevalent 10 to 20 years ago. The warning being circulated in 2013 contains mostly incorrect information.

Your Turn

Do you have any additions, corrections, or other information regarding the 90# scam? Please let us know in the comments below.

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