Jailed con-artists running phone scams from behind bars

LOS ANGELES COUNTY — Being locked up behind bars is apparently not stopping some criminals from victimizing innocent members of the public, authorities said.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials warned the public Saturday to be ware of jail inmates who have been tricking people into paying for collect and long distance calls.
By conning unsuspecting victims into dialing *72, followed by a phone number being used by the inmate, inmates have been able to have collect and long distance phone calls forwarded to their own phones at the victims’ expense, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“The increasing pattern was noticed by deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who have been receiving an increasing number of phone calls from people who have been scammed,” officials said.
In the scam, an inmate calls a victim pretending to be a sheriff’s deputy, officials said.
The imposter then claims that a family member of the person has been arrested or in an accident, and that the victim was listed as an emergency contact.
The inmate then instructs the victim to call *72, and then a phone number, for more information.
Upon calling the number, the victim is told they have the wrong number.
With many phone carriers, dialing “*72″ with a phone number causes calls to be forwarded from your phone to the phone number entered afterward, investigators said.
If it goes unnoticed, the inmates can build up costly phone bills by taking their via forwarding from a victim’s phone number.
“Do not dial *72 unless you want to forward your calls,” according to the sheriff’s statement.
In addition to sheriff’s officials, the California Public Utilities Commission has also issued a warning about the scam.
The commission and sheriff’s officials advised those who have been received the scam calls to immediately cancel call forwarding services on their phone lines and dispute the charges with their phone company.
The calls can be reported on the California Public Utilities Commission’s consumer hotline at 800-649-7570.
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