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Have you seen a Tracfone trafficking ad?

One of the bigger news items earlier this year in prepaid wireless was Tracfone’s pursuit of phone traffickers. The concept is simple. People go into retail stores and buy large quantities of prepaid phones, which are subsidized by the carrier so they come at below cost. They then unlock them and sell them overseas at a profit. This hurts everyone, says Tracfone. The company is taking this pursuit a step further, as they are running ads warning traffickers that they’ll be hunted down and killed prosecuted.

TracFone has been working with retailers, many of which have agreed to sell no more than two TracFones to one customer a day. But some people are going around that, hiring “runners” to buy two phones at a time from as many stores as possible, explained TracFone attorney Jim Baldinger of the firm Carlton Fields. Then someone unlocks the phones, either in the United States or elsewhere, takes out the SIM cards and resells the phones for a higher price in another country.

We know all too well about the two prepaid phones per person rule. It appears, though, that the stores that make these agreements don’t bother to pass the information along to their employees, who have all sorts of explanations of why you can’t get three prepaid phones for your three grandchildren.

We talked to Mr. Baldinger in an old episode of the Prepaid Podcast, who very articulately spelled out what’s at stake here. Give it a listen.

One Response

  1. Richard Says

    BUYER BEWARE!
    My family has been using various models of Tracfone for years. Yes, it is much less expensive and there are no service contracts than other cellular services. However, Tracfone is the worst when it comes to customer service. The 1-800 number you call for Tracfone is in the Philippines and not very many representatives speak English very well. I had three inactive phones that I wanted to reactivate. I purchased three 60-minute airtime pins on their web site and discovered that they combined them all into one 180-minute pin. I called to explain the problem. The willingly walked me through the process of reactivating 2 of the 3 phones with 60 minutes each. However the third phone needed a new part (SIM card), which had to be mailed. They informed me that once the new part arrived to call them and they would then be able to reactivate the phone. In the meantime, the number two phone would not work. I called them about it and they walked me through the process of getting it working again. When the part for the number 3 phone finally arrived, I called Tracfone as instructed. They informed me that I would have to buy more airtime for the phone because they added the airtime to my number 2 phone and blamed me for the problem. I explained the problem to a supervisor and still got nowhere. I reversed the charges to my credit card and I’ll never do business with Tracfone again!


    Posted on December 14th, 2008 at 4:13 pm

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