TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: DA Wants to Restrict Pre-Paid Cell Phones

Re: DA Wants to Restrict Pre-Paid Cell Phones

Robert Bonomi (
Thu, 25 Jan 2007 05:11:09 -0000

In article <>, <> wrote:

> The Montgomery County, PA (suburb of Philadelphia) district attorney
> wants to restrict pre-paid cell phones.

> I find this idea very troubling, kind of Big Brother. Does anyone
> agree with the DA?

> "To get a prepaid phone, all you have to do is plunk down your cash
> and walk out of the store -- no paperwork necessary. Castor says
> that's a problem for his detectives because they can't track down the
> owner of the phone."

> For full story please see:

> [public replies please]

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Actually, the way the DA would search
> for such a person would be the same way he located anyone else; he
> would subpoena the sales records. He would ask the seller of the
> phone to produce the record of whom the phone was sold to, the
> 'mystery caller' as it were. Ditto for any 'non-stationary' phone.
> Now, granted, the buyer may have plunked down cash and given a
> false ID for the purchase, but I am sure many buyers also used
> credit cards or a check.


When was the last time you had to show ID to purchase anything
(alcoholic beverages excluded) using cash, at Wall-mart, Best Buy, or
your favorite grocery store?

There _aren't_ any records of "who" the phone was sold to to be
produced. Just like the grocery stores *could*not* produce a list of
who had recently bought Tylenol`when the poison-tainted product was
discovered on the shelves a number of years ago. _OR_ who had bought
'suspect' produce in the recent "e. coli" scares.

The retailer simply _doesn't_ collect that information.

That lack of _any_ data (not to mention 'reliable' data) on the
purchaser's identity is =exactly= what the above-mentioned DA is
complaining about.

> The DA also might try dialing the number under some pretense and
> seeing what he can find out that way. PAT]

_That_ has been proven to be practical and effective in some
circumstances. Unfortunately, newspaper, and especially TV, reporters
have written about the kind of techniques law-enforcement has used to
"social-engineer" such types into revealing themselves, and, as a
result, those who even watch TV don't fall for that approach any more.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: As a matter of fact, I went to my local
drugstore here in Independence a few months ago, and looked on the
shelves where the cold remedies are found. A sign on the shelf said
that "Brand X (I forget which one I bought) is no longer on the shelves.
Manufacturer has chosen to _not_ change its formulary, so under state
law it is now available only from the pharmacist." I went over
there to get it, and I had to sign the 'dangerous drug' registry. And
if one bought 'too much' of it in one haul, eyebrows would be raised.

Now I grant you I could have scribbled 'Smith' or 'Jones' and taken a
couple bottles of it, I suppose. And Walmart *is* sort of itchy these
days about people buying large quantities of pre-paid phones, as per
the news item from Detroit about a month ago. I was trying to suggest
that the day may be coming that whether purchased by *cash* or by some
method where an audit trail is available, stores will be required to
account for their sales, the same as drug stores have to do now where
the ingredients _which could be used_ to make meth are concerned. PAT]

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