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Crooks find new phone scam

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

While spending time behind bars, some criminals are thinking of new ways to get what they want at someone else’s expense. Most recently, this talent has manifested in reports of collect calls from correctional facilities asking unsuspecting parties to connect calls for them.

In four separate instances this week, loc

al residents reported having received collect calls, two from the Hays County Jail and two from the Harris County Jail, asking them to press “*72” and then dial another number.

This action, according to AT&T, allows the incarcerated caller to place additional collect calls, or other calls, which will be billed to the victim’s phone number.

In most cases, this action [dialing *-7-2, followed by another number] will forward landline calls to another number, thereby allowing the third party at that number to accept collect calls from the inmate, while answering what might be legitimate calls to the victim’s phone number and telling those legitimate callers they have the wrong phone number.

While not a direct attempt to benefit from bilking a victim, these callers often use the ploy to bypass most cellular phone providers’ restrictions on receiving collect calls. As fewer and fewer people decide to maintain landline phones, AT&T reports mostly businesses and the elderly are impacted by this scheme.

When asked on Tuesday, Lockhart Police Captain John Roescher said the four instances in question were the first such reports he’d heard from Lockhart-area residents. Representatives of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and the Caldwell County Jail did not immediately return requests for information on the matter.

The “*72 Scam,” which has run rampant in jails across the nation for several years, generally presents itself in one of four ways:

– The caller says they have “accidentally” dialed a number, and then claims they need the victim to call their mother or spouse for them, because they can’t make another call;
– Someone calls and pretends to be a phone company employee. They might ask you to dial “*72” or “#72,” depending on your phone service, and another number, in order to check on your “remote access;”
– A person may say they are calling from a pay phone, and that they don’t have enough change to make an emergency call, then asking their call to be dialed for them; or
– A person calling and impersonating a police or law enforcement officer, and saying that you have to call another number to receive information.
In most cases, it is difficult for someone to realize they have been taken by one of these scams until they receive their monthly phone bill.

Anyone who believes they may have become involved in one of these schemes should dial “*73” or “#73” to deactivate their call forwarding. They should also take care to watch their phone bill, and immediately report activity they think is suspicious, particularly collect calls they did not receive or long distance calls they did not make.

In general, it is advisable to not accept collect calls from anyone you do not know, and hang up on anyone that asks you to enter any code on your phone.

To report this or any other potentially criminal activity, contact the Lockhart Police Department at (512) 398-4401, or the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office at (512) 398-6777.

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