Scam uses false insurance claims on cell phone accounts

DILLSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Rebecca Long is a busy mom, but luckily, she noticed an important message on her phone.

“I got this text message stating that there was fraud on my cell phone account and someone tried to order a cell phone through my insurance company,” Long said.

The scammer somehow got her passcode and account number and tried to have a new phone shipped to a different address, and it would have cost her.

“Probably around $1,000,” she said.

“This is a tremendous industry problem,” said John Sancenito, president of INA, a security consulting firm based in Harrisburg.

Sancenito says scammers don’t need much to start a false insurance claim and most claims can be filed online.

“During the process, [the scammer] can change the mailing address, they can change the email address affiliated with the phone to try and get it sent to a different location,” Sancenito said. “I think that is a little bit of a flaw in the system.”

Sancenito says because so many claims are filed, they often get pushed through.

“They don’t have a lot of time to process and make sure the person is who they say they are. Because these are small dollar amounts, even when fraud is determined, most of the time these cases don’t get prosecuted,” he said.

Small amounts can turn into big numbers. Several people were busted in California after filing 1,400 fraudulent insurance claims for new phones totaling over $600,000.

“The rest of us pay for that ultimately,” Sancenito said.

While insurance companies try to fix loopholes, consumers need to stay vigilant.

“I want everybody to know that this could happen,” Long said.

If your phone is under warranty, a scammer could have already used it to get a new phone and you wouldn’t know until you tried to file a claim.

Here’s what you can do:

– pay attention to your phone bill and dispute anything suspicious;

– check with your insurance provider to see if any claims have been filed;

– change passwords often;

– file a report with police. It could lead to a bigger case.

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