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Cell Phone Fraud

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadly defines cell phone fraud as the unauthorized use or manipulation of a cell phone or its service. In most cases, this is accomplished by using a stolen phone or signing up for phone service using false identification. There are, however, a wide range of activities that fall under the term “cell phone fraud,” so if you are being investigated for this type of offense, it is essential to retain a white collar crime lawyer who can ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

What is Cell Phone Fraud? 

According to the FCC, cell phone fraud involves any type of unauthorized use of or tampering with a cellular device or its service. Although this definition covers outright cell phone theft, it also includes more sophisticated schemes, such as cloning an electronic serial number. These numbers, also known as ESNs are unique factory-set numbers that can be stolen and used to reprogram other phones. Although there are a variety of ways to obtain this information, the most common involves obtaining ESNs through monitoring the radio wave transmissions of legitimate users. If a phone has been successfully cloned, then the original user will receive the bill for both his or her own phone, as well as the cloned device. Unfortunately, many people are unfairly accused of this offense after purchasing a used phone from another person without knowing that the number has been cloned.

Besides cloning, the most common form of cell phone fraud is known as subscriber fraud. Prohibited under the Wireless Telephone Protection Act, subscriber fraud involves signing up for phone service or a cell phone account with illegally obtained personal information or a false i.d.

Network fraud is another commonly charged cell phone-related offense that includes attempts to exploit the weaknesses in billing systems or phone switch equipment by manipulating cell phone systems and services. These actions can result in third party billing, as well as the use of nonexistent account numbers.

Sentencing Guidelines  

The federal law that prohibits cell phone fraud, known as the Wireless Telephone Protection Act, covers a wide range of activity, including possessing a cloned device, or using, manufacturing, or selling equipment that can be used to clone cell phones, or commit network fraud. The statutory maximum penalty for these offenses is 15 years, but judges are given discretion to determine sentencing based on a number of factors, including:

  • The amount of loss resulting from the defendant’s actions;
  • The amount of planning put into the scheme; and
  • Whether the offense involved the use of sophisticated equipment or skills.

This level of discretion in sentencing makes it especially important for defendants who have been charged with cell phone fraud to retain an attorney who can advocate for a dismissal or at least a lesser sentence for the accused.

Contact Our Legal Team Today  

To speak with an experienced white collar crime attorney about your own pending cell phone fraud charges, please call Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at (305) 670-9919 or send us an online message with a brief description of your case. Our Miami legal team is eager to assist you today.

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