Tags: Obama Phones | California | scams

California 'Obama Phone' Program Plagued by Scammers

By    |   Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 12:57 PM

On the streets of Los Angeles, vendors show up on street corners and outside supermarkets and welfare offices to hawk cellphones for people who are ostensibly in need.

But a report that aired Tuesday by CBS2 Television in Los Angeles suggests that the program is rife with abuse, with telephone salesmen urging customers to provide false Social Security numbers to obtain their phones and committing other forms of fraud.

The phones are financed by California taxpayers through a surcharge on all cellphone bills. The program has been exploding in size, attracting 30,000 new subscribers in August and 90,000 last month. Officially referred to as the California Lifeline Program, it is the Golden State’s version of the controversial “Obama Phone” program.

Officially, Californians who obtain the phones must provide proof that they are on welfare or have low incomes. But in practice, that often does not happen.

A CBS2 undercover producer who took to the streets of Los Angeles without any documentation that she was poor found numerous sales personnel willing to provide advice on how to twist the rules.

A salesman for one cellphone company standing outside a welfare office asked her if she had any friends receiving food stamps or other social services.

“What you could do is ask your friend to sign up for a free phone and when it comes in, they can let you have it,” the salesman suggested – even though that behavior is against the rules.

Outside another welfare office, salespeople for another wireless company went even further.

“You don’t need an ID or a Social Security number, none of that,” she said. “I would make up the Social, the last four. I would make up those four numbers for you.”

The employee offered to take a photograph of someone else’s identification to enable an  applicant to obtain a phone.

CBS2 said it never did go through with any of the purchases. One mobile phone company said later that it had fired the saleswoman filmed offering to “make up” the Social Security numbers.

“There appears to be very little oversight,” said  Kris Vosburgh of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “We’re just getting a lot of scammers who are applying and they’re not being filtered out by the system.”

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A report that aired Tuesday by CBS2 Television in Los Angeles suggests that the state's "Obama Phonoe" program is rife with abuse, with telephone salesmen urging customers to provide false Social Security numbers to obtain their phones and committing other forms of fraud.
Obama Phones, California, scams
374
2014-57-20
Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 12:57 PM
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