Cell Phone Trafficking: A Serious Crime

Thinking about getting involved in cell phone trafficking? If you buy prepaid wireless phones from stores or from other traffickers to hack or resell them, you could face life-damaging consequences. Phone traffickers can get caught by undercover investigators, get sued, and go to jail.

Report Suspicious Activity

Report traffickers anonymously by email or to TracFone’s Toll-Free Fraud Hotline:

(866) 806-1838

What is cell phone trafficking?

Flying under the radar is a complex network of traffickers. They don’t deal in guns or drugs. Instead, they deal in prepaid, unlocked cell phones for use on networks for which the phones were not intended. Traffickers buy discounted cell phones in bulk and steal subsidies from wireless carriers. The offenders then unlock the phones or hack into the proprietary software, a process also known as cell phone jailbreaking, so the phones can be reflashed and used on any wireless network. Traffickers also use armed robbery, burglary, identity theft, and all sorts of illegal conduct and fraudulent schemes to get their hands on cell phones.

Gray market traffickers resell phones to consumers at a considerable profit. Unsuspecting customers in the United States and around the world buy these “new” mobile phones that are often resold in counterfeit cell phone packaging. Traffickers profit by stealing the financial incentives (in the form of subsidies, rebates, leases, and installment billing discounts) that were supposed to benefit legitimate consumers.

Cell Phone Hacking: A Risky Business

You may think that buying phones in bulk, jailbreaking or unlocking cell phones, and selling them for profit is harmless. But cell phone trafficking not only hurts consumers and wireless providers, it also promotes street crime, armed robberies, and other illegal activity traffickers use to obtain phones put everyone at risk.  Reflashed cell phones are often sold to dangerous people who use them to carry out heinous crimes. Gray market cell phone trafficking profits have been known to fund terrorism.  Unauthorized hacking or resale of prepaid cell phones can also result in jail time for you.

Court Cases
Since 2005, wireless service providers have filed 230 lawsuits against more than 680 traffickers in federal courts nationwide, resulting in damages awards totaling more than $800 million.
Jail Time
Jail Time
Cell phone trafficking is a crime that has landed many defendants in jail.

How Cell Phone Trafficking Works


Cell Phone Trafficking Harms Everyone

Cell phone hacking and trafficking doesn’t just affect U.S. wireless carriers. All around the world, people pay for cell phone trafficking in a variety of ways.

Harms U.S. Cell Phone Industry

Cell phone traffickers have cost the American cell phone industry as much as $1 billion in lost investment that was intended to benefit legitimate U.S. consumers.

Increases Prices & Cheats Consumers Worldwide

Losses lead to increased pricing, making everyone pay for traffickers’ crimes and unsuspecting consumers, worldwide, purchase the hacked gray market devices without a warranty.

Abets Illegal & Fraudulent Schemes

Cell phone traffickers sometimes rob stores and individuals at gun point, steal identities and credit cards, and use other illegal schemes to get bulk quantities of cell phones.

Funds Criminal Activity

The profits from gray market cell phone trafficking have been known to fund terrorism and other illegal activities.

Cell Phone Trafficking in the News

Read our coverage about cell phone trafficking and what law enforcement and the wireless industry are doing to combat this global issue.

September 8, 2016
Man arrested in Rochelle Park was running scam to get cell phones, cops say.
Man arrested in Rochelle Park was running scam to get cell phones, cops say.
January 1, 2017
Cell Phone Theft Ring
Two men have been arrested and another remains on the run after Ashland Police busted a cell phone theft ring.
May 10, 2017
Corrections officer arrested on trafficking charge
Police arrested a corrections officer after finding more than a hundred cell phones inside his car.