Correa Invites Phone-Scam Victims to Meeting

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Assemblyman Lou Correa has set up a meeting Saturday to help victims of a telephone scam.

Thousands of Southern California residents say they have been left with steep telephone bills after accepting collect calls from people claiming to be relatives. Once the recipients realize they don't know the caller, they hang up--but later find they've been billed large sums anyway for the calls.

According to telephone company officials, the calls are made from pay phones, and the owners of those phones are the ones who profit from the scheme.

The scam appears to target people with Latino surnames. The calls are from Mexico and cost between $57 and $100. The scam has also been used on consumers in other states, including Nevada. Correa (D-Santa Ana) said he has a list of more than 500 people who say they have been victimized.

Representatives of telephone companies, the state attorney general's office and Correa will talk to victims about what is being done to stop the calls, what they can do if they have been billed and how they might be able to get refunds.

After beginning to investigate the matter, Correa found that his residential line had been billed for a collect call from a person his wife believed was a relative. The Correas were billed $60 after his wife accepted the call and was put on hold.

"I suspect there is a concerted effort to put these calls out," Correa said.

The 90-minute meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at the Rancho Santiago Community College administration building, Room 107, 2323 N. Broadway, Santa Ana.

Representatives from Verizon Communications and Pacific Bell are expected to be on hand to discuss the billing of the calls. Correa said it is possible that a representative from ZPDI, the Texas-based company that bills the calls on behalf of other telephone companies, may also attend.

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