Public being tricked by jailhouse phone scam

Jailhouse phone scamIf you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be a deputy, and you are told to call a number that begins with *72, do not call that number. Or you may be the latest victim of a telephone scam by jail inmates and others, say law enforcement.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department warned Monday that there has been a sudden increase, locally, in reports of the *72 phone scam, the fraud that has occurred off and on for many years in different parts of the country. Victims can be swindled out of a lot of money in collect-call fees before they catch on to the scam.

The scam begins when the victim receives a call from a person claiming to be a deputy. The imposter tells the victim that a family member has been incarcerated or involved in an accident. The imposter then informs the victim that the family member provided the victim’s name as an emergency contact.

The victim is instructed to call a number that begins with *72 (Example: *72-323-555-1212) to get the information needed. When the victim hangs up and dials the number provided, the victim is told it is the 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 turned off on their phone (usually by dialing *73).

Officials are warning you not to dial *72 unless you want to forward your calls. 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.