OHP warns of phone scam

Thursday, September 4th 2008, 4:59 pm
By: News 9

By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is issuing a warning about a telephone scam that's reached the state.

The OHP has gotten several calls from people who say they've received messages stating there's been a serious auto accident and their phone number is on a cell phone found in the car.

"It's the toughest thing to do for the highway patrol captain," Oklahoma Highway patrolman Chris West said.

The tough thing is calling a family to tell them they have lost a loved one. The only thing harder is being the family and that's something Linda Lerma felt Wednesday night when her phone rang

"He basically said there was a fatal accident and no I.D. It was a man and a woman that was in an accident and that my number was found in their cell phone," Lerma said.

The eerie phone call, supposedly from OHP, created instant panic.

"You start to think about anybody that you know who it could've been," Lerma said.

She took notes on the first thing she could find, a napkin and wrote down the number she was told to call starting with * 72.

"He said he was only a dispatcher but to call this Sgt. Malone," Lerma said. "They are standing by waiting to speak with me."

But there is no Sgt. Malone, just a strange voicemail.  There was no accident, just a twisted ploy by unknown criminals.

"They're trying to get you to dial a number that's forwarded to another number that has the ability to bill the number you're calling from." ---- said

At 4:30 Thursday morning, Lerma got her first of several collect calls from a prison and now she is angry.

"First you're scared. You're hearts racing," Lerma said. "You don't know what's going on, then all of a sudden it's a ‘How dare you?'"

AT&T said 72 is a custom feature for call forwarding and when it's activated it sends all calls to another phone number. This includes collect calls which are then billed back to the customer.

OHP officers always notify families in person if a loved one is killed.

They are trying to track down who's responsible. The OHP said the scam is being reported in other states and anyone who gets such a call should report it to local law enforcement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.