Cell Phone Records For Sale, Cheap

Frank Main, crime reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, reports that cell phone records are for sale on the Internet, cheap. And it’s apparently quite legal.

The Chicago Police Department is warning officers their cell phone records are available to anyone — for a price. Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts.

Criminals can use such records to expose a government informant who regularly calls a law enforcement official. Suspicious spouses can see if their husband or wife is calling a certain someone a bit too often. And employers can check whether a worker is regularly calling a psychologist — or a competing company.

Some online services might be skirting the law to obtain these phone lists, according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has called for legislation to criminalize phone record theft and use. In some cases, telephone company insiders secretly sell customers’ phone-call lists to online brokers, despite strict telephone company rules against such deals, according to Schumer.

[…]

How well do the services work? The Chicago Sun-Times paid $110 to Locatecell.com to purchase a one-month record of calls for this reporter’s company cell phone. It was as simple as e-mailing the telephone number to the service along with a credit card number. The request was made Friday after the service was closed for the New Year’s holiday. On Tuesday, when it reopened, Locatecell.com e-mailed a list of 78 telephone numbers this reporter called on his cell phone between Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. The list included calls to law enforcement sources, story subjects and other Sun-Times reporters and editors.

Ernie Rizzo, a Chicago private investigator, said he uses a similar cell phone record service to conduct research for his clients. On Friday, for instance, Rizzo said he ordered the cell phone records of a suburban police chief whose wife suspects he is cheating on her. “I would say the most powerful investigative tool right now is cell records,” Rizzo said. “I use it a couple times a week. A few hundred bucks a week is well worth the money.”

[…]

Schumer has called for legislation to criminalize the “stealing and selling” of cell phone logs. He also urged the Federal Trade Commission to set up a unit to stop it. He said a common method for obtaining cell phone records is “pretexting,” involving a data broker pretending to be a phone’s owner and duping the phone company into providing the information. “Pretexting for financial data is illegal, but it does not include phone records,” Schumer said. “We already have protections for our financial information. We ought to have it for the very personal information that can be gleaned from telephone records.”

The amount of information out there is simply scary. Obviously, this practice should be illegal.

via Mark Moore

FILED UNDER: General, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Cell phone records easily available

  2. Jonk says:

    And we worry about the NSA…pffft.

  3. McGehee says:
  4. Shumer is certainly a hypocrite–just look at what his campaign aides did to steal information about MD’s black Lt. Gov. Steele.