7 On Your Side: Inmate phone scam

By Courtney Lane - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Inmates are locked up but still reaching out from behind jail cells, calling and trying to scam East Texans. An inmate phone scam is going on, most of the time, from Harris County in Houston. Now, the Smith County District Attorney's Office received several of the collect calls.

We already learned through the Better Business Bureau that pay phones were added to jail cells in Harris County. Now, it appears that privilege is still being taken advantage of.

Based on the calls they received, the Smith County DA's office says inmates are targeting the East Texas area again.

"I'd actually never heard of this scam until yesterday, but, apparently, the inmates have access to these phones, and Harris County is receiving a lot of complaints based on what I've read, and they're really not able to curtail it," said Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham.

They usually ask you to dial *72 and a number, or something like this: To accept this call press zero.

But, if you accept the collect call, the result is not good.

"It gives that inmate control over your phone line," said Mechele Agbayani. "So, they're able to make whatever calls they want, long distance, whatever."

And, it's all at your expense, wracking up your phone bill. They could be convincing stories, too; like one Harris County warns about on their website.

"I was supposed to pick up my children from school. This was my only phone call and I dialed the wrong number. Please dial *72, followed by a number, so I can check on my children?"

"Inmates are very resourceful, and they have a lot of time to sit there, figure out how to scam the law abiding citizen, and that's apparently what's happening," said Bingham.

"If you get a collect call and you don't know who it's coming from, hang up," advised Agbayani.

Otherwise, as long as folks take the bait, they will keep scamming. Now, if you have accepted one of these collect calls here are some things you can do. To cancel the call forwarding feature, dial *73. To report the fraud, contact your telephone service provider. And, to block calls from the Harris County Jail, you can dial this number: 888- 815- 9102.

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