I-Team: Ongoing welfare cell phones - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

I-Team: Ongoing welfare cell phones

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Last year, NBC 10's I-Team uncovered a scam involving subsidized cell phones for low-income people.

The minutes on the phone are subsidized by a special assessment on your phone bill, a tax, mandated by the federal government.

The I-Team exposed several low-income people who were applying and getting up to four cell phones, when the government said there's only one subsidized phone per household.

Now, there's a new twist.

Carol Hamilton, of Cumberland, is not a low-income person.

She never applied for a subsidized phone, but several weeks ago she received two taxpayer-funded phones in the mail. One was for her, one was for her husband.

"I just, I didn't know why they were coming. I opened them and started to read the pamphlet on the back. The government says you have to use it once a month. These were the phones that were on TV, and I remember (the I-Team) had done a show on it," Hamilton said.

When she called the Safe Link cell phone company to tell them she had never applied for and didn't want the phones she was told to "throw it away or give it away."

So, Safe Link apparently doesn't care that taxpayers are partly subsidizing the phones, and it seemed what the company really wanted was personal identity information.

"All they wanted was my birth date and Social Security number. They couldn't tell me anything about the application," Hamilton said.

It appears Safe Link is randomly sending the phones to people who are not low-income hoping to get their personal information so the company can fill in a proper application.

The way the program works is the more phones Safe Link puts in use, the more the company is reimbursed by the special tax on phone bills.

If you receive a free cell phone in the mail and it's a subsidized phone and you are not qualified to have it, don't call the Safe Link company and supply your personal information, especially your Social Security number.

Safe Link did not respond to the I-Team's questions.

  • NBC 10 I-Team

  • Call the I-Team Fraud and Waste Hotline at 401-455-9123 or e-mail iteam@wjar.com.

    About the I-Team

    NBC 10's I-Team was the first investigative unit in Rhode Island.

    Formed in 1979, the I-Team has produced award-winning investigations into organized crime, public corruption and social issues ranging from child abuse to battered women.

  • The I-TeamMore>>

  • Katie Davis

    Katie Davis

    Katie Davis is an I-Team reporter at NBC 10. She joined the team in January 2010 and is excited to live and work in New England.
    Katie Davis is an I-Team reporter at NBC 10. She joined the team in January 2010 and is excited to live and work in New England.
  • Parker Gavigan

    Parker Gavigan

    Parker Gavigan is an Associated Press award-winning journalist, and was named to the NBC 10 I-Team in January 2013. Parker digs deeper to get the answers that matter to you.
    Parker Gavigan is an Associated Press award-winning journalist, and was named to the NBC 10 I-Team in January 2013. Parker digs deeper to get the answers that matter to you.
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