The public is being tricked by jail inmates and others through a phone scam. This fraud has occurred off and on for many years in different parts of the country.
This notice was shared with the public by the LASD earlier this year and resulted in a major decrease in victims and potential victims contacting the LASD. There has again been a sudden increase in reports of this scam.
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.
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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, contact your phone service provider to learn how to shut off automatic call forwarding.
For more information regarding this scam, please read the below alert from the California Public Utilities Commission for further details, recommendations and recourse.
*72 Phone Scam – CONSUMER ADVISORY
Consumers should be aware of a phone scam that can leave you with high phone bills. It starts when scammers call you pretending to be with the police or sheriff’s department, public safety agencies, or hospitals. They may make up a story about your child or other loved one being hurt in an accident. They then tell you to call the officer at the scene of the accident by dialing *72 and a phone number they provide you.
DO NOT DO THIS!
By dialing *72 at the beginning of a call, you will activate call forwarding, if you subscribe to it, and all calls to your phone number will be forwarded to the phone number that the scammers gave you.
When that happens, you may be billed a charge each time a call is forwarded to the other number. You may also be billed long distance charges, including collect call charges if applicable. Calls will continue to forward until you turn off the call forwarding feature. In some cases *73 turns off call forwarding, but that may vary depending on which phone company and the type of call forwarding service you subscribe to.
By getting you to activate your call forwarding feature and providing you with a number (it could be to an expensive pay-per-call service, the East Coast, etc.), the scammers can then call that number by dialing your phone number and you will be billed the additional charges. Don’t let this happen to you!
You may have call forwarding as a feature of your landline or wireless service. If you are unsure if you have it, ask your phone company. Also not all call forwarding is activated by *72. If you have call forwarding, find out how to use it, as well as all your other services.
If this does happen to you, call your phone company to dispute the charges and report it to the California Public Utilities Commission’s consumer hotline at 800-649-7570.