Beware of Cell Phone-Subscriber Fraud

In a society where it seems like almost every home in America is equipped with at least one cell phone, it stands to reason that there are going to be more than a few scammers out there involved in fraud. For that reason, we must never let down our guards.

According to the FCC Consumer Advisory Web page, subscriber fraud is currently the number one type of cell fraud. Subscriber fraud occurs when someone signs up for service with fraudulently obtained customer information or false identification. In other words, these scammers somehow find out your private phone number, password, security question and more.

If you are like me, you probably try very hard to guard against fraud by not volunteering any information without first being confident you know who you are speaking with. Don’t be so sure; even the most careful consumer can be scammed!

Several weeks ago my cell phone company (or so I thought) called me one evening while I was cooking dinner. They wanted to thank me for remaining a loyal customer for over seven years. I had just received a letter from my cell phone company days before with similar information so I never questioned that this call was legitimate.

The caller went on to tell me that two of my four phones were very outdated and they would like to replace them absolutely free with the exception of the eighteen dollar activation fee. Since my husband was needing a new phone, I decided to take the deal. The man on the other end of the phone then offered me a reduced rate if I would add a new line.

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In essence he said I could keep the same amount of minutes at the same monthly rate and add a fifth line for free. He also mentioned that the activation fee would be waived for this line. When I told him I really didn’t need a fifth line, he said a lot of people were just leaving these extra phones at home for emergencies. There’s something about the word free that makes a person temporarily loose their judgment skills and this time I was no exception. Even though I didn’t need the phone, I thought it might come in handy.

This man knew all four of the numbers on the account, my first and last name and our address. It never occurred to me that I was not speaking to a representative from my cell phone company.

When he asked me the last four digits of my social security number, however, I declined and told him I would give him the answer to my security question. I didn’t give him a chance to ask me the question. Instead, I just blurted out the answer, really just trying to speed up this call so I could continue cooking my dinner. He seemed satisfied with that and put me on hold. A very professional woman came on the line to confirm that I had ordered the two new phones and agreed to the fifth line. She told me I had to agree to activate the phones within seven days of receiving them or pay the full price for each phone. Finally, she told me I should receive the phones within five business days.

Of course, two weeks passed and the phones were never delivered. What did happen led me to believe I had been scammed.

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I received several calls with a Texas number and since I don’t know anyone from there, I chose not to answer them. Then I received a call from an 888 number which I did answer. The woman on the other end asked me if I was in one of my cell phone company’s stores. Before loosing the signal I told her I was not. Meanwhile, the cell phone company was calling my husband and asking him the same thing. After about the fifth call he received, the representative told him to have me call the fraud department.

When I spoke to the fraud department they revealed that someone posing as me had been in a retail cell phone store and had indeed ordered a phone for that fifth line. The woman saying that she was me also threatened to cancel all four of my existing phones unless they gave her the fifth line for free. This woman was so convincing that the cell phone company actually agreed to give her the phone for free and keep the plan at the existing monthly price. This is exactly what the fraudulent caller had promised me on the phone.

The scammer ran into a problem when she was told the cell phone was not in stock and would have to be sent to my home. Apparently she was trying to get the phone that day and use all my plan minutes before I realized. Fortunately, someone in that store recognized what was going on and told my husband to call the fraud department.

The order for the new phone was canceled and I received a letter stating I would not be responsible for any charges resulting from this incident. I changed all my sign in information and passwords that day.

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I was very lucky to have this problem resolved so quickly and easily. Still, it really has me on my guard now. The person I spoke to was so convincing that I have decided never to take advantage of a too good to be true free offer again. When I decide I need new products or services, I’ll call the company myself.