Be cautious with unknown callers

A recent story from the San Antonio news channel 4 is alarming. The lesson learned here is to NOT enter a code into your phone when calling people you do not know. The scam allows others to take control of your inbound calls by taking control of your phone with the *72 code.

SAN ANTONIO — We want to warn you about a telephone scam that could trick you into a sky-high phone bill.  Jail inmates, and other scammers, have found a way to take control of your phone so they can run up charges.  News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila spoke to a local man who had it happen to him.

Here is how the scam works: The scammer tricks you into calling him, using the code *72.  On many phones, that code permanently forwards all of your incoming calls to the scammer’s phone.

Earlier this week, Tom Graham was awakened by a phone call, a recording told him it was coming from a prison inmate.  Without saying a word, the caller hung up.

Moments later a man called claiming to be a prison guard.

He said an inmate had called Graham by mistake, but Graham would be charged for the expensive phone call.

The guard said he could cancel the charge if Graham would call him back at a different number starting with the code *72.

“Being half asleep, I went and dialed it back and I let it ring twice and got to thinking something’s funny, and hung up.  But they had me by that second ring,” says Graham.

Graham’s phone stopped receiving incoming calls.

“I called the operator and explained I had a *72 call from Harris county,” adds Graham.  “She immediately said that it’s a scam going on all over.”

Once the scammer gets you to forward all your calls to his phone, he gives your number to his friends anywhere in the world.  They call him collect, or make long distance calls billing it to your number.  He accepts the charges, and you get the bill.

Graham’s phone company, AT&T, sent us this simple warning for customers: If anyone calling you asks you to input a strange code into your phone, simply hang up.

Fortunately, the people who hijacked Tom Graham’s phone only had time to make a couple of calls before the scam was discovered.

He has some advice too.  “Don’t fall for it.  They will take control of your phone.”

While AT&T uses the code *72 to activate call forwarding, you should be aware that other phone companies use different codes for that feature.