FOX23 Investigates: How you can protect yourself from cellphone fraud costing you thousands?

TULSA, Okla. — Cell phone fraud is a real concern, and you could end up with a sky-high bill. FOX23 Investigative Reporter Janna Clark looked into the issue and has a warning and tips on how you can protect yourself from paying too much.

In December, SueAnne O’Hara said her AT&T bill jumped way up.

“It was like $2,300. And I freaked out,” SueAnne told Janna.

She said her account was on autopay, and she didn’t immediately realize that her usual $70 monthly charged had been raised to over $500.

“There’s no way I could have imagined that I had made all those calls,” she said.

SueAnne said she did a deeper dive and found three new phone lines that included multiple, new iPhone 13s had been added to her account. Her last bill shows the phones were used in Kenya and Nigeria to send hundreds of text messages.

“Someone’s tampering my lines,” she said. “And it’s actually sort of sickening to hear that people could mess up your life to that degree.”

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), millions of dollars are lost to cellphone subscriber fraud every year.

Just recently, seven people were charged with taking part in a nationwide $28 million cell phone fraud scheme. Police said they used personal information to buy iPhones through newly created or existing AT&T accounts.

“Scammers are incredibly clever,” explained Chuck Bell, the director of Consumer Reports. “They’re often experts at getting under your radar.”

Bell also said while paperless billing and autopay can be convenient account features, they’ve caused consumers to get away from taking a hard look at all of their charges.

“It’s very important to check your phone bill,” Bell explained. “Because there could be hidden charges on there from third parties that you didn’t authorize. And the sooner you catch them, the faster you can get them off your bill.”

SueAnne also told Janna that her first attempts to get answers from AT&T hit a brick wall.

“I got a letter within like two days saying, ‘That is not fraud.’ And there was nothing I could do about it and everything looked normal,” she said.

SueAnne then filed complaints with the FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in hopes to slow down the cellphone fraud charges.

“I don’t know who they are, but they now have me paying their phone bill for [them]. I don’t like that,” she said.

Janna said vigilance is key when it comes to your phone bill. She advised cellphone users to go over their statements with a fine-tooth comb and be sure to secure your information, including your phone number, as best as possible.

SueAnne did end up getting a call from the AT&T Corporate Office, and they removed all the charges and fraudulent phone lines from her account. AT&T also said in a statement that they “addressed SueAnne’s concerns” and that she is “satisfied with the results.”

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