An article in today's Columbus Dispatch showed that the *72 scam is alive and evolving, this time in the guise of a caller pretending to be a state highway patrol trooper. The way the scam typically works is something like this: I call you, and spin some tale such as, "Sorry about the wrong number, but my cell phone battery is dying, I'm on the way to the hospital with our sick daughter, could you call my wife for me at *72 555-5555 and tell her to meet me there?" You do so, and get a busy signal. After a few tries, you probably give up.
What you have done by dialing *72 is forward your phone service to my phone at 555-5555. As soon as you dial that number, I have control of your phone service. While you're sitting at home, puzzled why you can't seem to reach anyone by phone, I'm making call after call from my phone, racking up charges that will appear on your bill. Porn lines, gambling lines, third party calls, international calls... you'd be surprised at how fast thousands of dollars of charges can be compiled by these con artists.
What can you do? First, determine if you have call forwarding as part of your cell or land line service. If so, and you never use this option, ask your phone company to discontinue it.
If you must keep it, post a note on your phone reminding you and anyone else that might use the phone to not dial *72 unless you really intend to forward calls to another phone. Also check with your phone provider -- many have systems that allow you to log on to your account via the internet to check your phone usage between billing dates, in case you have reason to suspect something's not right.
Lastly, read your phone service manual to learn how to override active call forwarding.
Unfortunately, greed is no longer the only attribute that con artists prey on -- our desire to help those in distress also makes us vulnerable. But I'm not suggesting you grow callous, just cautious.