Phone Scam Costing Brazos Valley Residents Big Bucks

By: Kristen Ross Email
By: Kristen Ross Email

A new scam is making its way across the Brazos Valley and it could be costing you some big bucks.

You may want to think twice before you accept another collect call, because a simple $4 conversation could quickly add up to $400 on your next phone bill.

"They call you collect and then you accept the call," Janie Hart said.

Hart doesn't accept a collect call from just anyone, but when she thought law enforcement was on the other end of the line she picked up.

"He told me, 'My sergeant has a young man pulled over on the side of the road, can you call Sgt. Baker and give identification for this individual so they can release him because he doesn't have his driver's license on him'," Hart said.

The man on the other end of the phone gave her a twelve digit number to call stressing the first two numbers, *72.

That's when Janie questioned the caller...

"He's like yes ma'am you need to calm down, you just need to call my Sergeant, he gave me name Sergeant Baker," Hart said.

But when Janie hung up something just didn't feel right, so she called her phone provider.

That's when she learned *72 is a phone scam often used by inmates.

"It forwards your phone calls to that number you just dialed and that enables the prisoners to charge collect calls to your phone," Hart said.

"It's a theft of service but the problem would be tracking down what inmate did it," Alan Runge said.

Jail Administrator Alan Runge says there's anywhere from eight to 24 inmates in a cell who all use the same phone, and while they are all issued their own code they sometimes use somebody else's.

"Then you have to track down which inmate was actually doing it," Runge said. "It's hard to press a charge, the thing is don't dial a star number."

But that's easier said then done.

One thing Janie thinks makes this scam different than some others, is that this one plays to people's emotions.

"I was just worried at first because I was like what if this really is my brother," Hart said. "What if it is him pulled over on the side of the road and that's all they need is for me to call."

Janie also works for the Washington County Sheriff's Office and since she had her phone encounter, three more residents have called in with the very same complaint.

These sort of phone calls are also being reported in Brazos and Grimes counties as well.

Even Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell is not immune. He just recently received one of these phone calls on his cell phone.

Authorities say currently the majority of calls to the Brazos Valley area seem to be coming from Harris and Fayette Counties, although someone did report last week a call originating from Washington County.

The scam isn't only referred to as the *72 scam, it sometimes also goes by the name 72#.

Fraudulent callers may also ask you to dial that before a phone number.

If find yourself in this situation here's what you can do:

AT&T advises users to take charge of your incoming calls. If you doubt the identity of who you're talking to just hang up.

Also, monitor your telephone bills carefully. If you notice any irregularities contact your provider.

Lastly, protect your identity. Don't give out personal information over the phone.

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