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This type of scam was especially popular in the late '80s to early '90s in the United States before tougher regulations on the 900 number business forced many of these businesses to close.A 1-900 telephone number, in the North American Numbering Plan, has the form 1-900-###-####, and is often called a 900 number or a 1-900 number ("one-nine-hundred").Area Code 900 went into service January 1, 1971, but the first known to have been used in the United States for the "Ask President Carter" program in March 1977, for incoming calls to a nationwide talk radio broadcast featuring the newly elected President Jimmy Carter, hosted by anchorman Walter Cronkite.At that time, the intent for area code 900 was as a choke exchange—a code that blocked large numbers of simultaneous callers from jamming up the long distance network.Adult chat lines (phone sex) and tech support are a very common use of premium-rate numbers.Other services include directory enquiries, weather forecasts, competitions and voting (especially relating to television shows).Diplomatic services, such as the US Embassy in London or the UK Embassy in Washington, have also charged premium rates for calls from the general public.In many European countries, for example France, Germany and the United Kingdom, it was common for organisations to operate customer service lines on premium-rate numbers using prefixes that fall outside the scope of the country's premium-rate number regulations.
Also, the early incarnation of 900 was not billed at premium-rate charges, but rather at regular long distance charges based on the time of day and day of week that the call was placed.Due to complaints from parent groups about kids not knowing the dangers and high cost of such calls, the FTC enacted new rules and such commercials ceased to air on television as of the mid-1990s.Using 900 numbers for adult entertainment lines was a prevalent practice in the early years of the industry.While the billing is different, calls are usually routed the same way they are for a toll-free telephone number, being anywhere despite the area code used.These telephone numbers are usually allocated from a national telephone numbering plan in such a way that they are easily distinguished from other numbers.
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At that time, many evening news agencies conducted "pulse polls" for $.50 per call charges and displayed results on television.