If you receive an e-mail or an SMS message to your Italian cell phone from an unknown source instructing you to dial a number beginning with the digits 899, beware: the call could cost you as much as e10 and maybe more. Easily confused with the 800 prefix denoting toll-free numbers, 899 numbers allow for part of the inflated cost of the call (usually around 50 per cent) to be credited to the number being dialled. Other numbers to watch out for include those beginning with the prefixes 144 or 166. For information and to deactivate such numbers from your land-line phone, contact Telecom Italia on freephone 187.

Another telephone scam currently doing the rounds could be even more costly. By downloading an e-mail or clicking on a banner advertisement on a website, you could unwittingly enable dialer software to interrupt your connection to your telephone provider and connect you to a number prefixed by 709, 166 or 899 instead. You are unaware that anything has happened until you receive a telephone bill that is much bigger than usual as high as 5,000 for two months. To deactivate the service and block any further connection to these numbers or to reclaim money paid as a result of the fraud, call the Telecom Italia freephone number above.