Los Angeles county officials are warning people to watch out for a jail inmate phone scam, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Residents have called the sheriff’s department, asking to speak with a specific deputy, detective or sergeant who called them, but the real deputy who answers explains that the named deputy does not exist or isn’t on duty, sheriff’s officials said.
Earlier this year the same notice was publicly shared by the LASD and the amount of victims decreased, according to Capt. Mike Parker of Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau.
“There has again been a sudden increase in reports of this scam,” Parker said.
The calls start with a person claiming to be a deputy, officials said. The impersonator tells the victim that one of their family members is incarcerated or involved in an accident. Then the pretend deputy says that the victim is the emergency contact for the family member.
The imposter tells the victim to call a number that begins with *72, for example, *72-323-555-1212, to get the information they will need. The victim hangs up, dials the number given and they are told they have the wrong number.
Out of concern for a family member, the victim calls information (4-1-1) and asks for a sheriff’s department number and connects with a real deputy.
Since the victim used prefix *72 to start the last phone call, they just forwarded all their incoming calls to the scammer’s phone number, which includes collect calls from inmates who want to avoid paying for collect calls, sheriff’s officials said.
The victim receives the billing for the forwarded calls until the victim turns off call forwarding by dialing *73. Victims can be scammed out of money in collect-call fees before they know what happened.
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.
If you are a victim of this type of phone call, immediately call the California Public Utilities Commission Consumer Hotline at (800) 649-7570.
Have you or someone you know been affected by this phone scam? Tell us in the comments box below.