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Calif. jail inmates blamed for phone scam

Residents tricked by prisoners into paying for collect calls

The Daily News of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — Jail inmates are tricking people into paying for their collect phone calls through a scam involving call forwarding, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department warned Saturday.

Under the scam, inmates call a victim and pretend to be with a law enforcement agency or hospital, saying that a loved one has been incarcerated or injured, the Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

Inmates then tell the victim to call an officer at a telephone number that begins with *72. When victims call the number, they are told they have the wrong number, according to the Sheriff's Department.

But by dialing the *72 before the number, they are activating their own call forwarding service on their phone. Every call coming in to the victim's number after that point will be directed to the phone the inmate has designated, usually a friend or relative. This allows inmates to make collect calls to their friends, who accept them and the charge goes to the victim's phone bill.

"If not careful, victims can be scammed out of a lot of money in collect-call fees before they find this out," the Sheriff's Department said in a statement. Victims are billed until they turn off call forwarding on their phone, usually by dialing *73.

The trend was discovered after deputies began receiving an increasing number of phone calls from people asking for nonexistent deputies or officers who are not on duty, according to the Sheriff's Department.

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