Have you ever opened an email from a trusted friend saying that they are stuck in a foreign country? I get one of these emails at least once a week. I think all of my friends are stuck or locked up somewhere. I don’t have any friends left…not! This is an old phishing/fraud scheme. It refuses to die because people still fall for it. It has also mutated over the years into another form that many people fall for.
It is a variation of the old standby, someone you know stuck in a foreign county and desperately needing your help. You get an email stating that they have been robbed or mugged and now they need you to send them the money to get home. Some people will fall for it but most of us tend to know when our friends are taking a trip to an exotic locale because they tell us. If you were headed to Rome or the South of France for a week, you would be telling all your friends too! Even if it was just to see a bit of envy on their face.
So it has mutated into a newer version, ‘The Prison Phone call’ scam. The first time I ran into this scam, I laughed so hard I was almost in need of a box of Depends. It was several years ago when I was working for the police department.
I answered the phone to hear a recorded message saying that an inmate had called from that number and that the number was to a correctional institution. I was given a number to call because the number they were calling from was part of a prison phone system that did not accept inbound calls. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Until you think for a moment. The person who called from that number was not identified nor was the correctional institution. Big red flags.
Who was it that called? If I didn’t know who called who was I supposed to be calling them back about. The other issue? What jail or prison did the call originate from? The message was designed for one reason, to get people to dial the number.
Here’s the catch. That number is not ringing where you think it is ringing. It is ringing in a foreign country somewhere. Even if it is a US area code, it has been forwarded to an out of country number. You dial it and you pay. This one still pops up and the Holidays are a perfect time for this and many more scams. It’s a hectic time for most people, lots of people you know are traveling here and there and it is reasonable that things happen.
Keep two things in mind. If you receive a call about someone being in jail any message you receive should should include the name of the correctional institute and the person who the call is from.