Total Call Mobile, a California-based phone provider, is fined by the FCC for $51 Million. The communications company knowingly defrauded a popular program that helps low-income consumers with affordable phone service.
Participating providers receive a $9.95 subsidy each month from the government for each person enrolled in the program. In exchange, the discount is supposed to be passed on to the consumer. Manipulation of subscriber numbers has been one of the main methods of fraud. Total Call is not the only Lifeline provider to be penalized, but they have been fined the largest amount of all cases to date.
Lifeline fraud has been a real problem in the past years. The focus, however, has mostly been on free cell phone recipients signing up for more than one phone. The biggest problem is the phone providers who manipulate the number to increase the amount of money received from the FCC.
Total Call Mobile
The Federal Communications Commission has found the cell phone provider has deliberately set out to defraud the program. The FCC has announced they intend to fine Total Call Mobile $51 million for creating tens of thousands of fake or duplicate enrollments in an attempt to defraud the FCC. Somehow Total Call found a way to override the safeguards put in place to avoid fraud.
Total Call Mobile has been accused of gaining millions of dollars by fraudulently signing up non-existent phone prescribers. Phone companies who commit Lifeline fraud not only steal from the FCC and the government. They also steal from the consumer who pays into the free government phone program!
Lifeline services 18 million disadvantaged families and has provided free and affordable phone landline service since the Reagan administration in the 1980s. They later went on to expand this same service to include cell phones and smartphones.
The FCC’s investigation discovered agents were involved with illegal enrollment tactics in over 13 states. Eligible consumers were enrolled, and multiple subscriptions attribute to one consumer leading to more than one phone being given to one subscriber. Also, enrolled agents changed the information on applications.
“The Commission alleges that since 2014, Total Call has requested and received an estimated $9.7 million in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund for duplicate or ineligible consumers despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees, in some cases compliance specialists, found that company sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud. Lifeline providers are required to ensure their employees do not commit fraud within the program.” (Read More)
Other News – TerraCom Wireless under Scrutiny – TerraCom Wireless, which has been under scrutiny, cuts its sales force. TerraCom is an Oklahoma-based company participating in the FCC’s Lifeline program. Many companies seeking Lifeline subscribers have been aggressively seeking subscribers.
They use TV, radio, and internet advertising. The most aggressive of them all is the human field agents. A field agent can be anyone from an in-store associate to an agent set up outside a store, or poor communities, enrolling low-income clients.
Free Government Cell Phone Abuse – Free government phone abuse has gotten a lot of press. The free cell phone program was started decades ago to help the rural poor, but not until the recent explosion of people receiving free cell phones did you hear all the abuse! The truth is, there is a lot of fraud and abuse associated with the program.
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