The Pager Scam Rumor That Refuses To Die

It sounds like a dastardly fraud: scam artists tricking pager subscribers into returning phone calls to New York City numbers that turn out to be expensive pay-per-call services. Warnings about the fraud have been issued by American Telephone & Telegraph Co., U.S. West Inc., trade publications, and police departments across the country. There's only one problem: The racket was squelched almost as soon as it began. Last March, authorities arrested one scammer who had conned thousands of pager subscribers into calling his $55-per-call number. But since then there have been no further complaints, according to New York Telephone Co. and Telocator, the paging industry association.

Telocator Senior Vice-President Michael R. Vernetti says he was even called by a producer at Geraldo Rivera's Now It Can Be Told. The durability of the "news" proves one thing: If a fraud story seems too good to be true, it probably is.