Beware of cell phone order scam
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 17:40

Scammers order phones using fraudulent ID

 by Nicole Rodman

When West Inverness resident Jane (her real name has been withheld to protect her privacy) received a package a few days ago, she didn’t think much of it.
    After all, she had just ordered a product and was expecting a package in the mail.
    She set the box aside, resuming her normal routine, until a few days later when her actual order arrived.
    Confused, Jane opened the initial package to find a $400 AT&T cell phone. Despite the fact that she had never ordered the phone, it was in her name and sent to her address.
    Unsure of how she had gotten the phone, or how it had been paid for, Jane called AT&T and got the last four numbers of the credit card that had been charged. It was not her card.
    After consulting with both AT&T and the Better Business Bureau, Jane realized that she had been the victim of a common, though underpublicized, crime known as subscriber fraud.
    Realizing that she had been scammed, Jane began to worry about the scope of the crime.
    “I am hoping they didn’t open another credit card in my name,” Jane told The Eagle last week.
    According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website, subscriber fraud is the number one type of cell phone fraud, costing carriers more than $150 million a year.
    Subscriber fraud occurs when an individual signs up for cell phone service using fraudulent personal information.
    As the FCC fact sheet on cell phone fraud notes, “Lawbreakers obtain your personal information and use it to set up a cell phone account in your name.”
    Typically in this type of fraud, the scammer will either order the phone in person by posing as the individual whose information they are using or they will have the phone shipped to the victim’s address.
    Using the latter method, the scammer hopes to pick up the package from the victim’s house before they receive it.
    If this occurs, it may be a month or more (until the first cell phone bill arrives) until the victim realizes what has happened.
    Luckily for Jane, she had a neighbor looking out for her.
    Though Jane was not at home when the phone arrived, her neighbor took the package in for her, preventing the scammer from stealing it.
    Had Jane not gotten the package that day, she would likely still have no idea what had happened.
    While identity theft schemes and cell phone fraud are distressingly common these days, there are a few steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
    First, as Jane did, ask a friend or neighbor to look out for any packages you may receive.
    Especially as the holidays get closer, both scammers and thieves may be looking to swipe any packages that the mailman has left on the porch.
    The FCC also recommends that people protect themselves from identity theft and fraud by safeguarding their personal information.
    This includes cross-cut shredding old check stubs, bank statements and other sensitive documents and only giving out personal information when you know it will be secure.
    All personal information, even mailing addresses, should be safeguarded to lower the risk of identity theft.
    Jane just hopes that by warning others, she can help prevent others from becoming a victim.
    For more information on cell phone subscriber fraud, visit www.fcc.gov/guides/cell-phone-fraud.