The Collect-Call Scam, or Not?

There's a rumor of a phone scam going around, where correctional inmates place a collect call to your number, requiring you to pay a $10 charge... but is it true or not?

This is my own personal blog, not the opinion of anyone else, my family, the station or anyone but me.

I took a call from someone in a county jail/prison today on my cell phone. As soon as you answer, an automated vice identifies it as a call from "their name", an inmate at a correctional institution and then informs you that you are being charged $9.89 for the call with no option of refund or portion of the five minutes time.
 
I hung up. I understand it's some form of scam that's going on. How it works, I'm not really sure, cause I can't imagine the inmates can collect the money the phone company is billing from you.  But to be sure, Don't accept calls from a prison...and not from 866 area code. (nor 216)

The first name of the inmate was the same as a former employee, so I hesitated for a moment to learn what he wanted...but when the automated operator informed me that the call would cost me $9.89 I hung up.... 18 seconds into that call. I don't know if I was automatically charged or not, but I hung up and then called the Sheriff's Department to report the call/scam.

They said they had heard of it before, but not recently. They also said if the charge did come through, that they wanted to know so they could help me fight it somehow. 

Now, I'd like to see a caution shared by our Sheriff to the general public. The call came from 866-847-1251 which I have not tried to dial...it may be an internal phone line at the prison or county jail.

If it was a simple wrong number, then why did they call back two times the next day at exactly the same time, and within 3 minutes of each other????!!!

I'd like to give this poor soul the benefit of the doubt.***  Perhaps his call was legit, and he just misdialed.  Perhaps he was given the wrong area code or the wrong number for a relative.  It is also possible that he hit a digit on the phone twice (there is a double digit in my cell phone number, so if someone's dialing finger slips, you might dial 8 numbers instead of 7... it's happened in the past with cheap imitation Bell phones.)

However, an additional call was placed at exactly the same time, twice more...so that kind of rules -out the misdial or technical error.  But he still could be thinking he's calling home or Good ol' Uncle Rosco...

That's not my problem.

What I don't understand is how the phone company might agree to bill me almost ten bucks if I just pick up the phone call.  At no time did I approve the charges or accept the call.  But then, I didn't hang around to hear a pitch.  I just hung up.

Now, if the inmate has a device or knows how to press a button to signal acceptance of the charge, I can see where you might get billed.  But how that benefits the inmate is a mystery to me.  Only the phone company might benefit from such an instant charge.

Can you figure out how this might work?  If so, drop me a line and let me know.

I think we'd all appreciate being forewarned.

Oh, and if you get such a call from 866-847-1251... Just tell them you're a bunko squad investigator that specializes in busting phone scams.  Let's see how long THEY stay on the line!

 **Update:  I received two more such calls on Sunday, also near 20 minutes past the hour. I picked up the first call, assuming that it was work calling about the snow storm. Again, the same pre-recorded call mess... $9.89 for 5 minutes call from "Jeremy". (All Jeremy's that I know are accounted for, and NOT in prison in Chillecothe.)

This time, I let the message play out, and it DID ask me if I wanted to accept the charges. I remained silent, and it again said that they didn't understand my response. Did I want to accept the charges.  I hung up.

Three minutes later, the same number called again, and I didn't answer. Within 30 seconds, I had a message of a missed call.

There's no question this is automated, but there's no reason for me to accept the call.  And I don't expect to be getting any charges.  Just don't say "Yes" or press any buttons when you hang up!

***Additional Update:  A couple of days later, I got a call from a (216) area code. It's the same inmate's voice asking for a collect call.  As this was the SEVENTH call, I filled a police report with my local police.  The officer took all the information and seems confident that this is NOT a scam. He believes it's a poor inmate who can't remember his family's cell phone number or is calling from the wrong area code.

The officer said he'd try to get back with the Chillecothe Sheriff's Department, where this call originated from, and attempt to identify the inmate who is mis-dialing.  That satisfied me, and I asked the officer, if he succeeded in reaching this inmate, that I wished him good luck in the future.

What else can I do?  I'm not paying for a collect phone call!

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