Authorities warn not to be tricked by inmates and others asking you to call phone numbers starting with *72.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has announced that a jail inmate phone scam is on the rise. The scam begins by the victim receiving a call from a person claiming to be a deputy. This imposter tells the victims that one of their family members has been incarcerated or involved in an accident. The imposter then tells the unsuspecting victim that his or her family member provided the victim name to the caller as an emergency contact.
The victim is then instructed to call a number that begins with *72 (Example: *72-323-555-1212) to get the information they will need. When the victim hangs up and dials the number provided, he or she is told they have a wrong number.
However, since the victim used the prefix *72 to initiate their last phone call, they have just automatically forwarded all their incoming calls to the scammer's phone number (these include collect calls from inmates who want to avoid paying for collect calls). The billing for these forwarded calls goes to the victim until call forwarding is then turned off — (usually by dialing *73).
Concerned for the safety of their family member, the victim usually then calls an information line (4-1-1) and asks for a number to the Sheriff's Department. They are then connected with a real deputy.
The real deputy who answers the phone explains they are mistaken, as the named deputy does not exist or is not on duty.
This fraud has occurred off and on for many years in different parts of the country. This notice has been shared with the public by the LASD and the news media many times over the past few years. Each time it is shared, it results in a major decrease in victims and potential victims contacting the LASD. There has again been an increase in reports of this scam and we are asking you to forward this to your family, friends and colleagues to help them avoid it.
If not careful, Victims can be scammed out of a lot of money in collect-call fees before they find this out.
If you have been involved in this scam, and you have already dialed a number beginning with *72, contact your phone service provider to learn how to shut off automatic call forwarding. Also, report it to the California Public Utilities Commission’s consumer hotline at 800.649.7570
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