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Law enforcement warns of phone scam that bounces people to 911

April 11, 2014

A new scam has caused dozens of unintended 911 calls to Milwaukee police and other law enforcement agencies, beginning about 8 a.m. Friday, prompting officials to issue a warning.

Authorities are urging people to ignore prompts to dial 1 or 112 if they get a phone call or text message saying their bank or credit card was deactivated or suspended, because once they do, those residents are connected with a 911 dispatcher.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said residents have reported receiving an automatic recording such as "your credit card has been temporarily suspended, dial 112."

"We're in the process of trying to understand if someone is trying to take down the 911 system or if somebody has a scam that somehow enriches them by having you call our number or if it's a scam that's gone awry technologically," Flynn said.

The Waukesha County Communications Center had received about 150 of those calls as of noon Friday, but the agency's system had not been overwhelmed and calls for real emergencies were still able to get through.

"It is our understanding that AT&T Mobility is working on this issue, as is the FBI and other governmental entities. We believe this scam is affecting mobile customers in the Southeast Wisconsin areas, including Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Waukesha counties at this time," according to a news release from the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department.

Emergency dispatchers at the Milwaukee County sheriff's office also said it was receiving similar calls on Friday.

Flynn said it does not appear to be a national problem.

"Obviously if this happens too much, it's going to delay our response to genuine emergencies," Flynn said.

The chief reminded residents to be on alert for any type of scam when contacted about financial information, and repeatedly asked residents not to follow the prompts if they receive such an automated call or text.

"I don't know if it's victimizing the individuals with some penalty they're getting or some fee they're going to end up finding on a bill, or whether or not it's an attempt to take us down, but either way please don't push that button," Flynn said.

In a statement Friday, AT&T said any carrier can be targeted by this or similar scams and recommends that customers never provide personal information in response to incoming calls or text messages.

Twitter: twitter.com/aluthern

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