Hacking their way into home fax lines, inmates in Miami-Dade jails are racking up tens of thousands of dollars in collect calls billed to unsuspecting citizens, reports the Miami Herald. Recent victims include a federal judge, a Miami Herald columnist and the county architect who helped design a Miami-Dade jail. Corrections officials say the inmates, with help from accomplices on the outside, have figured out how to forward collect calls through AT&T from a victim's fax line to the inmates' girlfriends, pals or relatives -- who accept the calls but don't have to foot the bill.
Alabama-based Global Tel*Link, which operates jail collect- and prepaid-call systems nationwide, has reimbursed customers nearly $200,000 for bogus calls over the past two years. The Miami-Dade Corrections department and GTL say they can do little to stop the scam because the call forwarding is done through AT&T. An AT&T spokeswoman said the company is investigating. Inmates at five jails have free access to banks of phones, 600 in all, located in common areas. They can only make collect or prepaid phone calls of up to 30 minutes. To make them, an inmate must open an account with GTL and use their thumbprint to activate the phone. Despite those safeguards, authorities say they are unable to prosecute violators for fraud. Investigators would have to prove the inmate arranged the scheme and actually made the calls -- a nearly impossible burden when an inmate could claim he simply allowed another cellmate to use his account.