LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Southland residents were warned today about the resurgence of an old scam, in which jail inmates telephone people and trick them into allowing their phone number to be used by others making collect calls.

“This fraud has occurred off and on for many years in different parts of the country,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker said.

The scam begins when someone calls a victim claiming that one of their family members has just been jailed or involved in an accident, and has given their name as an emergency contact, Parker said.

The victim is then instructed to call a number that begins with the “star” key and the digits “72.”

When the victim hangs up and calls that number–which is the scammer’s number–the victim is told they have a wrong number. The victim generally then calls information and gets a real number for a jail, and is told by a deputy that their loved one is not there.

However, by keying in the “star” key and the digits “72,” the victim has authorized that all calls to their number be forwarded to the scammer’s number, and these include collect calls from inmates who want to avoid paying for collect calls. The billing for these forwarded calls goes to the victim until they turn off call forwarding on their phone, usually by dialing “star” and “73.”

“Do not dial ‘star 72’ unless you want to forward your calls,” Parker said. “If you have been involved in this scam, and you have already dialed a number beginning with ‘star 72,’ contact your phone service provider to learn how to shut off automatic call forwarding.”