POINCIANA, Fla. — A woman in Poinciana contacted Action 9 claiming she was the victim of a different kind of cellular fraud, where scammers charged her wireless account for new lines and thousands of dollars in new iPhones.
“In December it was like $2,300, and I like freaked out,” said Sueanne Ohara.
That’s how much Ohara said she saw on her AT&T bill last month. She said her account was on autopay and didn’t realize for several months that her usual $70 monthly charge had been jacked up to over $500.
“There’s no way I could have imagined that I had made all those calls,” Ohara said.
Ohara took a closer look at her bill. She realized three new phone lines and three new iPhone 13s had been added to her account. Her most recent bill shows the phones were used in Kenya and Nigeria to send hundreds of text messages.
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“Tampering my lines and it’s actually sort of sickening. The thing is that people can mess up your life to that degree,” Ohara said.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, millions of dollars are lost to cell phone subscriber fraud every year.
Just recently, seven individuals were charged with taking part in a nationwide $28,000,000 cell phone fraud scheme, where they allegedly used personal information to buy iPhones through newly created or existing AT&T accounts.
“Scammers are incredibly clever and they’re often experts at getting under your radar,” said Consumer Reports director Chuck Bell.
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Bell said paperless billing and autopay might be convenient account features, but they’ve caused consumers to get away from taking a hard look at all their charges.
“It’s very important to check your phone bill, because there could be hidden charges on there from third parties that you didn’t authorize and the sooner you catch them, the faster you can get them off your bill,” Bell said.
Ohara said she kept hitting a brick wall trying to get answers from AT&T.
“I got a letter within two days saying that it was not fraud and that there was nothing they could do with that,” Ohara explained.
After Action 9 contacted AT&T, Ohara said she got a call from the corporate office. AT&T removed all the fraudulent charges and unauthorized phone lines from her account.
AT&T told Action 9 they addressed Ohara’s concerns, and she is satisfied with the results.
Ohara filed complaints with the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission. She hopes it slows down this cell phone fraud scheme.
“I don’t know who they are but now they have me paying their phone bill for them, I don’t like that,” Ohara said.
Remember, vigilance is key, go over those statements with a fine-toothed comb and always keep your information, including phone numbers, as secure as possible.