A tricky scam that most often originates with incarcerated criminals can cost you thousands of dollars in phone bills.
Known as the “jailhouse jingles” phone scam, it involves getting the victim to dial certain digits so that the scammer can essentially charge his phone for his future calls.
Sound strange? It certainly is— but it’s absolutely real. Here’s how it works:
Normally, an inmate will either call you directly, or get a third-party accomplice from the outside to conduct a three-way call. If he does this, you won’t hear the recorded message that precedes calls coming from prisons, informing you that an inmate is calling. These recorded messages also ask whether you would like to accept a collect call, since prisoners must call collect unless their calls are pre-paid.
If you do hear this recorded message, you might be worried that someone you know has gotten into trouble, even if you don’t currently know anyone in prison. That’s why most people accept.
Once the person on the other end has your attention, he’ll normally ask for someone else. You’ll say that you don’t know that person, and the inmate will beg for your help. He’ll say he only gets one phone call, and he called you by accident— could you please transfer his call to the correct number?
It all might sound very legitimate, so perhaps you’ll agree. He’ll then ask you to press *72, 72#, or 90#, and then the “number” of the person he’s trying to reach.
Little did you know that dialing those digits actually transfers control of your phone to the caller on the other end! That’s where the big problem begins. Once you’ve done that, you’ve actually allowed the caller to make calls, sometimes even long distance ones, and charge them to your account.
This trick, called call forwarding or call diverting, could be quite helpful if you’re in a situation in which your child or some other relative can’t pay for calls and you want them to be able to reach you. However, most people don’t know about it, and scammers use that to their advantage.
The scammer can rack up expensive calls and charge them all to your phone bill. So what’s the best way to avoid this scam? Knowledge is key— now that you know about it, keep yourself safe by never accepting any call forwarding from anyone you don’t know.
In addition, you can block fishy calls from your cell phone and landline with Call Control, a free app for iPhone and Android.
Photo Credits: jailcallsusa.com