Selling phone records

Published 6:35 pm Saturday, February 4, 2006

By Staff
WASHINGTON - Cass County's congressman, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, expressed concern over the easy access to personal cell phone records on the Internet during Wednesday's E&C Committee hearing on “Phone Records For Sale: Why Aren't Phone Records Safe From Pretexting?”
For a nominal fee, there are dozens of online companies that offer to sell telephone records.
Some Internet brokers are also offering to sell information relating to the location of mobile phone calls.
Upton is currently drafting bipartisan legislation to make it illegal for a third party to obtain an individual's phone records.
The legislation Upton is drafting will make pretexting illegal and direct the FCC to tighten up security for carriers, as well as increase the penalties for security violations.
The legislation is expected to be considered by the full Energy and Commerce Committee next week and on the floor of the House the following week.
Similar legislation has already been introduced in the Senate.
Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a commissioner from the Federal Trade Commission were among the witnesses testifying at the Feb. 1 hearing.
Unlike other types of personal information which can be found on many public documents that data brokers mine, the only area of telephone call records are the phone companies.
The records are fraudulently accessed through a number of ways. The primary method is “pretexting,” through which an individual pretends to be the phone account holder to access the information.
A “pretexter” can place a call to the telecommunications carrier, and with a few pieces of personal information, persuade an employee to release the secured information.
A “pretexter” can also take advantage of situations in which a consumer has not set up an online account for a given phone number.
The “pretexter” can establish the on-line account and access all of the targeted customer's secured information.
In 1999, law enforcement authorities discovered that an information broker sold a Los Angeles detective's pager number to an Israeli mafia member who was trying to determine the identity of the detective's confidential informant.