Student Cell Phone Credit Mule

Photo by Anthony92931

With the amount of debt students are carrying these days, they are always looking for a way to make additional money.  Scammers are taking advantage of this and they are damaging students financial futures in return.

Scammers are targeting students to act as “credit mules.” That’s when a scammer uses someone else’s identity, personal information and credit to get something of value. In this case, it’s a cell phone. Friends and internet neighbors don’t fall for this scam.

Here is how the scam works:

First a person who calls themselves a “recruiter” comes and asks you “do you want to make some extra money?” or something like “do you want some fast cash?”. They mainly go for college students because of course any student wants a bit of money in their pockets. These students are considered “mules” in the operation.

Next, the “recruiter” comes and gets the “mule” and takes them to any AT&T, Verizon or Sprint Store to use their information such as their Social Security Number to do a contract under that cell phone carrier. The “recruiter” is the one who pays for the cell phone with cash. After the contract has been completed and the “mule” has the phone, they give the “recruiter” the cell phone. The “recruiter” then pays the “mule” a cash payment on the spot.

The “recruiter” will tell the “mule” if you cancel your contract within the next 30 days, you will not have to worry about any bills. But when the “mule” tries to cancel the contract, they realize they’ve been duped. Regardless of what the recruiter told them, they can’t cancel the contract without returning the phone. So the “mule” is not only on the hook to pay for the phone, but they also have to pay the monthly service fee for the length of the contract. If they can’t pay, their account goes to collections and their credit rating suffers. Negative credit can affect their ability to get credit, insurance, a job, and even a place to live.

You get the bad credit and the scammer gets an expensive phone for $40.

Here is a first person account of how these scammers work:

Damn, did this really just happen to me? Yesterday. From a craigslist posting I answered for “up to $300” “opportunity” (“not a job”) to make money “today.” A guy responded and asked if I’d ever had a Verizon account. Told me to call their 800#, go through the whole credit approval deal on the phone, to find out if there would be a deposit on the unit he said to ask about, then just tell them it cost too much and end the call. Then he physically took me to a Verizon outlet, paid for the brand new phone including deposit. I stupidly gave all my info for the phone contract and account setup. Account was activated while we were still in the store. Afterward, he paid me a couple of large bills before going on his way with the phone. Should’ve known. The only explanation I got when I kept asking how it all worked was “we just buy and sell phones.” Before and after going to the store, while I was with the guy, his group of cohorts discussed the stops they had to make, people they were working with that day, how many phones to get from which locations, how much money they had and needed, and so on. Seemed like a normal, well-orchestrated day for them. That feeling that something’s not right woke up with me this morning, and of course I’m not getting answers when trying to contact the dude at yesterday’s phone number.

If you’ve been approached by someone offering you cash to sign a wireless contract — or already victimized by a “recruiter,” the FTC wants to hear about it. Your complaints help stop rip-off artists, scammers, and fraudsters.