Members of the public are being tricked by jail inmates and others through a telephone scam.
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.
Members of the public have been calling the Sheriff's Department and asking to talk to a specific deputy, detective or sergeant who had just called them. The real deputy who answers the phone explains they are mistaken, as the named deputy does not exist or is not on duty.
The scam begins by the victim caller receiving a call from a person claiming to be a deputy. This imposter tells the victim that one of their family member's has been incarcerated or involved in an accident. The imposter then informs the victim caller that their family member provided the victim caller's name as an emergency contact.
The victim caller is then instructed to call a number that begins with *72 (Example: *72-323-555-1212) to get the information they will need. When the victim caller hangs up and dials the number provided, they are told they have a wrong number.
Concerned for the safety of their family member, the victim caller then calls an information line (4-1-1) and asks for a number to the Sheriff's Department. They are then connected with a real deputy.
However, since the victim caller 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 caller until they turn off call forwarding on their phone (usually by dialing *73).
If not careful, victims can be scammed out of a lot of money in collect-call fees before they find this out.
Do Not 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, call your phone service provider to learn how to shut off automatic call forwarding.
For more information regarding this scam, please contact the California Public Utilities Commission’sconsumer hotline at 800-649-7570 for further details, recommendations and recourse.