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Elderly warned about collect calling scam

With the return of an old con game, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is warning the elderly not to accept collect calls from unknown jail inmates.

Authorities say this particular scam is called "fishing and hooking," and it works like this:

A jail inmate will comb through a phone book looking for what are considered old-fashioned names such as Esther, Eleanor or Louise. To get that person to accept a collect call, the inmate will call asking about a supposed son or grandson, giving a common name like Bob or Bill.

"When the victim accepts the call, he or she has been "hooked,' " said Pinellas deputy Cal Dennie.

The inmate will try to engage his target in friendly conversation, often talking about religion, Dennie said. The prisoner will ask the person to mail them money, supposedly for religious items or toiletries they can't afford.

Investigators are looking into whether a particular Pinellas jail inmate has been making such calls. No charges have been filed.

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