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Commission Issues Free Cellphone Scam Alert


August 20, 2014 (2014-15)
Contacts: Susan Ackerman, Chair, 503 378-6611, Stephen Bloom, Commissioner, 503 378-6611,
John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962             
Salem, OR.  The Oregon Public Utility Commission is issuing an urgent SCAM alert cautioning consumers about online postings offering to help them to get a free cellphone.
Assurance Wireless (Virgin Mobile) and SafeLink Wireless (TracFone) are authorized to provide free cell phone service (Lifeline) in Oregon to eligible consumers. 
The scammers claim to be representatives for either Safelink Wireless or Assurance Wireless. However, neither company is currently using representatives in Oregon to sign up customers.
How the scam works:  Scammers advertise the free cell phones and free monthly wireless minutes on websites like CraigsList.  After the consumer responds to the online solicitation, scammers ask for copies of personal identifying information, such as their driver’s license or identification card, and proof of participation in a public assistance program.  These scammers claim they will complete and submit an application on your behalf for the free cell phone to be delivered to your home. 
How to protect yourself:
  • Don't believe what you read.  Be wary of individuals who request your personal information.  They may not be affiliated with the company in Oregon they claim to represent and may not be authorized to collect your personal information. 
  • Contact the company. When in doubt, contact the company directly to apply or to verify the legitimacy of these online solicitations. 
                        Assurance Wireless                               
SafeLink Wireless
  • Contact the Commission. Call or e-mail the Oregon Public Utility Commission if:
    • You see an online solicitation for free cell phones with free monthly wireless minutes
    • You have provided your personal information to a potential scammer in response to an online solicitation
    • You have been contacted by anyone claiming to represent a “free cell phone” company.
            Oregon Public Utility Commission
800-848-4442 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Lifeline is a government benefit program that provides discounts on monthly telephone service (wireline or wireless) for eligible consumers.  To receive Lifeline benefits, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in specific public assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).