Rather than calling to report crimes, though, some crafty South Carolina state prisoners figured out a way to use the Crime Stoppers phone line to make personal calls, racking up some $7,000 in charges at Crime Stoppers’ expense, according to a July 2011 news report. The toll-free tip line was billed for 4,000 calls in one month, apparently after prisoners used the Crime Stoppers phone number as a third-party billing source for long distance calls.
“Some inmates are very resourceful and have a lot of time on their hands,” said Joey Hudson, President of Greenville County Crime Stoppers. “We know definitively the calls were made from corrections institutes in the Pee Dee area,” he stated. “We are still working to see if we can trace the calls back to a specific inmate or inmates.”
Telecompute, the company that provides Crime Stoppers with its toll-free number, temporarily blocked further calls from state prisons and pay phones. South Carolina prison officials disputed that the fraudulent phone charges originated from the prison system; while the investigation continues, though, prisoners are unable to call Crime Stoppers. Which presents a problem, as prisoners are considered a valuable source for tips about unsolved crimes.
“They are a wealth of information,” noted South Carolina Law Enforcement Divsion Chief Mark Keel. “We want to be able to continue to receive tips from them.”
The $7,000 bill for the fraudulent phone charges was reduced by Telecompute to $3,000, which will be paid from funds donated to Crime Stoppers.
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