Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Can a prepaid cell phone be tracked?

In many cases, yes indeed, as Melvin Skinner found out. The United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration did not violate the Skinner’s constitutional rights when it collected his phone's GPS data. According to an article on The Hill’s blog, “DEA agents tracked Skinner's pay-as-you-go phone as he transported drugs between Arizona and Tennessee. They arrested him at a rest stop in Texas with a motor home filled with more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana.”

But to track a cell phone (prepaid or not) you need to have the number.  So how did the DEA get the number?  One of my readers—an attorney—had the answer:

“Based on the facts described in the appellate court decision, it is likely the prepaid number was identified because of calls made between it and two regular (non-prepaid) cell phones being used by another drug trafficker. Law enforcement had obtained court orders to intercept communications from those two non-prepaid phones.”

Let’s hear it for pagers, folks. That’s why I still recommend them in the new edition of How to be Invisible.

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