800 vs 1-800

I recently needed to file an insurance claim for my vehicle and went to dial the company’s toll-free number: 1-800-692-6326. However, thinking that the “1” prefix was not necessary I dialed 800-692-6326. (See the P.S. for the reason I’m leaving the number intact.)

Instead of connecting directly to American Family Insurance, I connected to some kind of survey promising me a chance to win a fabulous vacation package.  Of course I didn’t know that at the time.

Here’s how it went down.

The recording didn’t offer the usual options; instead, it asked if I’d be willing to take a simple 3-question survey. Well, OK, the claims department is probably busy so I can humor them for a minute until a claims agent is available.

Recording: “Are you over 50 years old? Press or touch ‘one’ to answer ‘yes.”

Me: (touching the ‘1’ on my keypad)

Recording: “Congratulations, you have won a chance to…<blah blah blah, something about fabulous vacation trip>

Me: (frantically pressing ###)

Recording: (hangs up)

Frankly, I don’t recall the details of the fabulous offer but I was particularly annoyed that: (a) my insurance company would answer with a survey, and (b) that they hung up on me.

I immediately called my local agent who informed me that their claims office in Wisconsin answers with a set of options and they don’t have such a survey. The agency owner also said they’ve never received a complaint like this. He offered to submit my claim himself on the spot.

Out of curiosity, I dialed the claims number again, this time using the “1” prefix. Bingo. I got a recording identify the company by name and offering a series of appropriate options.

Holy crap! I thought that it didn’t really matter whether you actually typed in the “1” and thought I’d save myself a teensy amount of trouble with the shortcut number.

Boy was I wrong. I tried doing some Google research on whether there’s a difference between 1-800 and just plain 800 but all I got were tutorials about the nature of different toll-free numbers. I then filed an FCC complaint, mostly just to see if the government could explain this apparent phone number hijacking scam.

So, dear readers…if you’re still dear with me: I would like to know if there’s an actual difference between the two kinds of numbers…and, if so, is that even legal? I’d love to hear you comments on this.


P.S. I just dialed the plain-jane 800 number so I could report the exact wording of their survey.

Recording: “You have reached a number that is not available from your calling area.”

I figure there’s no harm in posting it — in case anyone thinks they can score a fabulous vacation.

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2 comments on “800 vs 1-800

  1. Laurie Fagen says:

    Very interesting! I go back and forth between using the 1 and not … will stick with NOT from now on!

    • jveeds says:

      I’m not sure the issue is with any 800 number. My suspicion is that some pesky scammer decided to be opportunistic. But that’s why I’m curious about this whole incident.

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