By Dan Solomon
Phone trafficking is big business these days, but a business Sprint is working aggressively to stop.
Sprint leads the wireless industry in working to thwart phone traffickers who steal the subsidies that are intended to make phones affordable for Sprint’s customers. Phone traffickers use a wide variety of methods to obtain subsidized phones from carriers and these methods are becoming increasingly dangerous and violent.
Phone traffickers may use identity theft, tricks to get Sprint customers to sell their discounted upgrade phones, “credit mules”, and even burglary and armed robbery. Traffickers often sell these fraudulently-obtained phones overseas, but sometimes sell them domestically on websites like eBay and Craigslist. Our Sprint fraud and legal teams work with investigators and lawyers across the county to pursue phone traffickers and shut them down permanently. And we are seeing results. To date, Sprint has filed 42 lawsuits against 152 traffickers in federal courts, obtaining 37 permanent injunctions and final judgments awarding more than $93M.
Phone traffickers are essentially stealing from wireless carriers. Here are some tips to avoid supporting or becoming a victim of phone traffickers:
- Carefully protect your identity and account information. Never share your social security number or personal information with someone who promises you a “quick buck.”
- Don’t agree to sign up for wireless service in order to sell your brand new upgraded Sprint phone to a trafficker. If you sign up for service you don’t use and don’t pay for, you will be harming your personal credit. This is called “credit muling.”
- Wireless carriers offer customers a subsidized upgrade so they can have the latest and most advanced technology to accompany their voice and data plans. We advise against purchasing a phone anywhere other than from an authorized wireless retailer or dealer. We strongly recommend against purchasing phones on websites like Craigslist or eBay. You may be thinking you’re getting a better deal, but ultimately find the phone is permanently disabled if it was stolen or purchased by a credit mule.
- If you are aware of anyone involved in phone trafficking, please contact Sprint’s fraud management hotline at (888) 788-0788.
Sprint always has maintained an internal database of lost and stolen consumer phones, and if one is reported to us as lost or stolen by a customer, we block all voice, text and data use of that device immediately. If someone else later attempts to activate that stolen phone on the Sprint network, Sprint will reject the phone as invalid. Sprint also provides its consumers with built in mobile software which allows consumers to track, wipe and lock their devices remotely.
More details, tips and resources can be found at http://sprint.com/stolenphone .
Sprint also is collaborating with Recipero CheckMEND - an international database that can be accessed by law enforcement agencies and the general public - to share its lost and stolen phone data. In November 2013, Sprint launched with other major carriers an international database for new LTE devices, which will act as a nationwide lost and stolen phone database, ensuring that a stolen phone cannot be activated on any other U.S. carrier’s network.
Dan Solomon is a Sprint attorney who works with investigators and attorneys across the U.S. to find and legally pursue phone traffickers.