You’re paying big, fraudulent Obamaphone bills
Posted on June 8, 2016 by Sam Rolley
Woman taking photos with her phone
If that hefty cellphone bill you pay every month so that you can keep in touch with family and keep business running smoothly sometimes makes you twitch, you’re not going to like this story at all.
Remember all those voters Obama got by handing out free cellphones? Well, they’re costing taxpayers, many of whom are dealing with hundreds of dollars in cellphone bills themselves, a boatload of money.
Even worse, regulators are saying that many recipients of Obamaphones through the Lifeline program shouldn’t even be eligible for the taxpayer-subsidized devices. In fact, Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai recently reported that taxpayers have forked out nearly $500 million to people who don’t meet the need criteria for the phones every year.
One of the biggest problems with the program, the official said, is that the FCC relies on cell phone carriers to verify that customers meet qualifications and aren’t applying for duplicate Obamaphones.
“The carrier essentially, on its own say-so, tells the FCC … ‘we pinky swear that this is a legitimate subscriber,’” Pai told reporters.
The incentive for carriers to enroll as many customers as possible into the program, even if that means fudging numbers and stretching the truth, is obvious. Many of the Obamaphone users might not otherwise become customers or would possibly opt for a package cheaper than that for which the government is willing to pay.
The FCC recently targeted Obamaphone provider Total Call Mobile with a $51 million fine for such enrollment packages, saying the California-based provider enrolled “tens of thousands of duplicate consumers” in the program. The company did so by overriding a single government check in place designed to ferret out duplication in the welfare phone program.
Currently, around 18 million Americans who are on food stamps and Medicaid qualify for Obamaphones, so it’s safe to assume that there’s plenty more duplication afoot.
“Given what happened in the Total Call Mobile case … it seems pretty clear to me that there are substantial problems with the way the program is being administered now and unscrupulous actors have no problem filling the vacuum so to speak when the enforcement mechanism isn’t robust,” Pai said.
So how easy is it to get an Obamaphone? Well, according to a recent column by Robert Morely over at the Trumpet, it’s so easy you could do so by accident.
Only after a lengthy argument with his cell phone provider did Morely get back on his regular plan.
“I might have had a tax payer-provided phone with free monthly minutes and unlimited text messaging for life! Plus a whole lot of free Internet access too,” he wrote. “That’s how close I came to my very own Obamaphone.”
“It’s a testament to the efficiency of the United States’ welfare industry—and it gives new meaning to the concept of ‘the land of the free,’” he continued. “A person doesn’t even need to sign up for a government-sponsored social program; they can simply end up in one.”