Telephone providers are warning about an upswing in the so-called *72 scam by Houston jail inmates, says the Houston Chronicle. The fraud involves an inmate’s calling a person collect and tricking the victim into forwarding his phone to another number. The person at the other number then can make hundreds of dollars in long distance calls that are billed to the victim’s phone. AT&T and Verizon officials report the same problems are happening nationwide. Verizon spokesman Bill Kula said there are a number of telephone scams that include calling card and credit card number theft, third-number billing and identity theft. “Unfortunately, it tends to be often elderly who are victimized, thinking that they are doing the right thing and simply being cordial to people on the phone,” he said.
Here’s how the scam works: An inmate calls a person collect. If the person accepts the call, the inmate claims to have dialed the wrong number. “And then they will give you some sob story, saying ‘This is my only phone call. I was arrested on traffic tickets, and I got my young child here at the station. They are going to send my child to [Child Protective Services] if I can’t get in touch with my mom, my uncle or whomever.’ ” said a sheriff’s office spokesman. The inmate asks the person to dial another number with *72 in front of it. The use of *72 forwards the telephone to another number.