State police: Beware of phone scam

bestep@herald-leader.comOctober 3, 2008 

Jail and prison inmates are using a new scam to get access to people's long-distance telephone services and running up big bills, Kentucky State Police have warned.

Inmates dial phone numbers at random. They tell whoever answers that a family member has been hurt in an accident and to call a number that begins with *721 for more information.

However, calling a number beginning in *721 gives the person who receives the call access to the originating caller's long-distance service, said Don Trosper, spokesman for the state police post in London.

The people receiving the calls prefaced by *721 are relatives of inmates, who then use the long-distance service, Trosper said.

People have gotten phone bills totaling thousands of dollars, he said.

The scam operates nationwide, but there have been fraudulent calls in Clay and Laurel counties and elsewhere in Kentucky, Trosper said.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be a police officer and directing you to call a *721 number, ignore it, state police said.

A Windstream representative said people who have fallen for a fraudulent calls scheme can cancel someone else's access to their long-distance service by dialing *73, state police said.

If someone is in an accident, state police use different ways to contact family members depending on the severity of the accident, but they never direct anyone to call a *721 number.

If a crash involves a death, officers tell the family in person. If the victim is from outside Kentucky, state police will call a police agency there to talk with the family.

If someone is injured, a hospital usually contacts a family member, state police said.

If state police leave a number for the family to call, it will be one of the state police post numbers or a 1-800 number and will never include a star.

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