Charges have been filed against 20 jail inmates, accused of participating in a phone scam that News 4 Investigates first told you about in September. 18 inmates at the Cook County Jail are charged with felonies, including impersonating a police officer and two are charged with misdemeanors. Plus, the jail has taken the first of two major steps that will prevent inmates from victimizing others.
It's still hard to believe that a prisoner, locked up in a jail in Chicago, could take control of your phone and rack up hundreds of dollars in charges on a single phone bill. Our story showed how inmates tricked a man in Wright City, Missouri, but they've scammed both young and old from coast to coast. Click here to listen to an actual call that was answered by an 11 year old boy. And click here to listen to an actual call made to an 85 year old woman.
Here's how the scam works. They make collect calls and when they're supposed to state their name during the recording that you hear when you answer, they say that they're a police officer, it's an emergency and that you won't be charged. Once a person answers, the inmates give them a number to call to find about a loved one who was in an accident. The number always begins with *72 or 1172 which causes all future calls to be forwarded to the number that the inmate gave them. Afterwards the inmate calls the victims number, the call is forwarded to a friend and the victim's telephone account is billed.
The Cook County Jail changed procedures so that the recording that's heard when a collect call comes in, warns people about this scam. Click here to listen to that warning. Soon the jail will start recording the inmate as they state their name, and that recording will be used during the collect call, so that anyone receiving a collect call from the Cook County Jail, will know exactly who made it.