Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection


A concerned parent from the Dallas area contacted us this week to report that a well known telephone scam is still active here in Texas. This person's teenage son took a call that seemed to be a wrong number. The caller implored the boy not to hang up, and proceeded to tell a hard-luck story about being detained by police and urgently needing to get a call through to his family. The caller persuaded the boy to dial *72. Since then, the family's phone has been tied up with a steady stream of calls by inmates of the local jail to their friends and associates, and the inmates' calls are being charged to the family's phone number.

Make sure that everyone in your household is aware of this scheme. The key is, don't accept a collect call from someone you don't know, most especially from someone in jail, and more importantly, do not grant such a person's request to dial *72. Please do not fall for a colorful and sad story involving frightened children waiting for their father to pick them up at school, or whatever else the caller may invent to win your sympathy. Hang up. Or you will end up providing inmates with free phone service (free for them - expensive for you). If you ever are victmized by this scheme, contact your telephone service provider, who may be willing to spare you the charges, and let the sheriff know that the scam is occurring in his county jail.

ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.