This is a true story that happened to me so hopefully this information can help prevent someone from being scammed!
If someone ended up in jail or prison they may be able to contact their friends and family through the Global Tel Link system or other similar relay service. When a phone outside the jail or prison is answered their is a recorded message which asks you to accept a collect call from whoever initiated the it is that is calling. For this purpose it is legitimate but as I explain below you will see how this system has been utilized for a scam.
The Scam is real and was attempted today on my business telephone line. I got a total of nine calls from the same number, 713-981-0098 from someone I do not know in a span of 10 minutes. No matter how much I would hang up they would just call back again. If you look up this number through Google you will see that many other people have been bothered by this same number. The number is part of a correctional institution telecommunication system. It is called "Global Tel Link" and their recorded information during the incoming call says you can block the call by pressing "7" and then dialing 877-650-4249. I pressed "7" and then called the number after hanging up but unfortunately they were not able to take my call directly. I instead was forced to use their call back system. The recording said it can take up to two hours for them to have a representative return the call. Meanwhile the phone kept ringing from the same 713 number. At one point I answered and the recorded message said to press "0" to hear the fee schedule in place if I was to accept the collect charges. The recording said the cost is $3 for the first minute and .13 cents for additional minutes. I decided while I was waiting for a call back from "Global Tel Link" to accept the call to see what was so urgent. I figured for $3 it might be worth it if I could get them to stop calling.
I was told by the apparent unknown prison inmate that I needed to call Officer Miller regarding one of my family members who was in trouble. The inmate did not even know my name or the name of any family member who was in trouble. It was very hard to make out what he was saying as the telephone connection was not good and there was a lot of background noise. It was obvious that this was some sort of scam but I was not sure how it worked until I researched it a bit later. The inmate asked me to call *72 1-323-921-1506 to reach Officer Miller and to do it right away as he was waiting for my call. After hanging up I knew better than to do what he told me but instead called the number without the *72. Some lady answered who promptly hung up when she figured out that it wasn't the call she was expecting. Meanwhile my phone starting ringing again from the same 713 number so I would just hang up.
On the Global Tel Link web site http://www.gtl.net/ they have a warning:
GENERAL CONSUMER PROTECTION INFORMATION
Be wary of inmate calls that request you to dial *72 followed by a new ten-digit number. Completing this request will result in the forwarding of your telephone number to a number of the inmateÂ´s choosing, and all calls to your true telephone number will be automatically forwarded to the new number without your knowledge. The only way to reverse the forwarding of calls to a new number is to dial *73.
See the below link which explains how the scam works including the money side of it which unfortunately Global Tel Link does not make any mention of: http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/forward.asp
Here is the summary:
The scammer may instruct the victim to "Dial *72 and then 890-6789," a sequence which activates the call-forwarding feature for the victim's phone number and tells the phone company to forward all calls placed to 345-1234 to 890-6789 instead. The scammer can then instruct acquaintances all over the world to call him collect at 345-1234 (or to place third-party calls to anywhere in the world and bill them to 345-1234) Â the scammer can approve all these charges (because all calls placed to 345-1234 are being forwarded to his phone), but the owner of 345-1234 is the one on the hook for paying for them (because they were forwarded through his number). The forwarding will continue until the victim issues instructions to cancel it; if the victim doesn't receive many incoming calls, he may not even notice something is amiss until he receives his next phone bill and spots the unauthorized charges for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.
(Of course, this scheme only works if the victim had previously signed up for the call-forwarding option with his phone service provider. And although *72 is the sequence most commonly used for call forwarding, some phone service providers may use different sequences.)
The best way to avoid falling victim to this scam is the obvious one: never activate your call forwarding feature at the request of someone you don't know. Only forward your calls when you want them to go somewhere else.
"Global Tel Link" did call me back and they did add my number to their block list. I did have to give them my name and verify my address which according to the operator they already had up on the screen. The only other thing they asked me for was a four digit password which would be required should I ever need to remove the block (Yeah Right!). I believe they are legitimate and did indeed block my number because all of the other calls stopped completely afterwards.
My recommendation to be sure your number is blocked from the "Global Tel Link" system which will avoid ever getting calls from prisoners is to call them and add your number to their block call list. They can be reached at 877-650-4249