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Prevent inmates from 'hijacking' your phone line
CON GAME | Sham calls ring up charges -- but you can protect yourself

Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by GUY TRIDGELL Daily Southtown

The call sent a jolt through the Palos Park woman. He said he was a cop and told her she was listed as an emergency contact for someone who had just been in a car wreck.
Hang up, he told her, and dial *72 followed by a number with a Chicago area code to reach a doctor who could tell her more.
The woman's thoughts raced to her 19-year-old son, who was out with friends.
She dialed the number. And the headaches began.
The cop was a phony. And by doing what he said, the woman allowed him to "hijack" her phone line -- making calls that were charged to her phone.
"He sounded very professional," said the woman, who did not want her name revealed.
Prompted to forward calls
The scam works like this: An urgent call comes to your home, usually late. The caller claims to be a doctor or a police officer and says someone you know has been in a wreck and you need to call someone for more information by dialing a number preceded by pressing *72 or 72# -- a feature offered by most phone companies to forward calls while you're on vacation.
No one answers but any subsequent charges made from the number you called will be charged to your account.
Calls like these often come from jails because pretrial inmates are granted access to communal phones placed in their living quarters. Bill Cunningham, spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, said the phones must remain available to inmates of the Cook County Jail who are charged but not convicted.
The best advice to protect yourself? If a caller asks you to hang up and call another number, don't do it.
If you think you've been victimized, dial 73# to unlock the forwarding feature from your line.
Then call your phone company to alert them -- and to make sure charges don't accumulate.

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