Officials warn against latest phone scam - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Officials warn against latest phone scam

If you fall for the latest phone scam, it could have you paying for calls made from prison by convicted criminals.

What happens is you get a collect call to your home from someone claiming to be with law enforcement or the government, and once you accept the charges, if you follow the instructions, you could find yourself paying for criminals to call home.

"That phone call comes through and your heart drops and you're thinking, Oh my God," says Tia Weisbrod.

Tia's brother, Alex, is in the Reserves on alert, so when the phone rang with a collect call from the Army, she did what it said.

"The person on the other line was very professional and acted as if they were a dispatcher of some sort stating that we were the emergency contact for a soldier an that we needed to contact a Sgt. Johnson for more information," Tia explains.

When the Weisbrods called Sergeant Johnson, they were told they were the emergency contact for another soldier. They figured it was a mistake and thought nothing of it.

"There could have been thousands of dollars of collect charges on my phone," Tia says.

That's because the number for Sergeant Johnson began with '*72,' so by calling that number, the Weisbrods forwarded their calls to another phone without knowing it.

And they're not the only ones. The Fort Wright police department has been dealing with this scam all year.

"The caller said that a relative was involved in a traffic accident, for more information dial star and then a number," explains Detective Travis Brown.

Brown says he tracked the calls back to the Cook County Jail in Chicago. Inmates there were finding unsuspecting people in the Tri-State to pick up the tab for their calls home.

"If we call you we will have more information up front we'll be very specific about who was in an accident if that's the case and what's going on," says Brown.

"At the moment you're not thinking that, you're thinking something is wrong with my family member somebody's hurt or something's going on. I'm thinking the worst," says Tia.

So the best advice is to always verify the number of the agency you're asked to call. Also, dialing star before any number is a function of the phone like call forwarding or call return, not a normal phone number.

Cincinnati Bell is not going to charge the Weisbrods for the collect calls, and Fort Wright Police say they'd never call anyone collect, and would always be forthcoming with information about why they're calling.

FOX19.com: Corey McConnell

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