Cellular phones are very commonly seen in students’ hands or pressed against their faces on college campuses all over the world. As of fall 2004, 90 percent of students own cell phones according to research done by Student Monitor.
But recently there have been reports in the press of websites that can obtain a cell phone owner’s information over the internet.
There are a number of Web sites such as Locatecell.com and CellTolls.com that for a fee of under $100 you can receive the incoming and outgoing call log from a person’s cell phone bill. These websites will also provide the phone number of a cell phone owner if you provide some simple identification information and even a customer’s physical address if you provide the name and social security number. The information is guaranteed to be delivered within one to four hours after placing your order.
This phone fraud has been the subject of news for months. The issue became public knowledge when John Aravosis posted on his site, Americablog.com, detailed a description of how simple it was for him to buy the cell phone records of Gen. Wesley Clark, a former candidate for president.
“When I heard about those websites, I was shocked. I thought that type of information was only available to law enforcement,” said Anwar Williams, 21, a psychology student from Orlando.
According to research also done by Student Monitor, college age students are more likely to have their identity stolen. Operators claim that these sites get their information, through posing as a customer and asking for information about an account.
They then ask for the bills to be emailed or faxed to them and forward the information over to their customers. The online availability makes it able for any one to access the information, including people convicted of fraud before.
“It was bad enough when I had to worry about credit card fraud and someone stealing my debit card, it’s getting so ridiculous that I can’t even talk to who I want to without the possibility of someone getting my records,” said Shane Garvin, 21, a psychology student from Fort Lauderdale. “My question is what are cell phone providers going to do to fix this problem?”
Cingular Wireless, Sprint and Nextel, and Verizon Wireless all require a password or the social security number of the primary person on the account to be given for account inquiries.
A customer service representative of an authorized retailer of Cingular Wireless said that it is difficult to differentiate if the person on the phone is a customer or someone posing as one, if they have all of the password information on the account, so students should be careful who they give their password to.
“I’m going to change my password information as soon as I can, because I’ve had my identity stolen before and it was too much of a hassle to get everything back in order,” said Danica Plaskett, 21, an engineering student from Orlando.
Cingular Wireless and Verizon Wireless have requested court orders against data brokers accused of obtaining records by falsely representing customers. On the websites of Locatecell.com and CellTolls.com there are notes at the bottom of the web pages that read phone numbers from T-Mobile, Cingular, and Verizon will not be accepted or processed at this time.
Federal lawmakers are also trying to prevent these websites from obtaining the data and Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced a bill that would make it illegal for someone else to pose as a customer or an employee to sell customer data.
Contact Kimberly Craft at firstname.lastname@example.org