Buyer Beware: New Burner Phone Bill Would Require ID


Burner phones are a low-cost alternative to the name brand mobile phone carriers. People can go to any gas station or Best Buy and purchase one with a set amount of minutes for a fraction of what a major carrier would charge. 

However, these phone have been used by some of the most nefarious characters such as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad to avoid law enforcement. If the user changes phones with enough frequency it is nearly impossible to track their location.

The use of burner phones aren’t limited to use by would-be drug dealers in both television and real life. Burner phones were also used by “9/11 hijackers and the Times Square bomber” as well as the Paris attackers, Rep. Jackie Speier (R-Calif.) said in a statement.

A recent law introduced by Speier—The Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016 (H.R. 4886)—would force sellers of these phones to collect information such as the full name of the purchaser, the complete home address of the purchaser and the date of birth of the purchaser. In addition to the general information required, a buyer would also need to provide government ID or a W-2, a Form 1099 from the Social Security Administration or any other agency or any document that the Attorney general deems acceptable.

However, these phones are also very prevalent in today’s culture outside of criminal use. Many people rely on these phones as a low cost alternative to the smart phones that can sell for as much as $750. So this begs the question, will a bill that forces buyers to provide identification really prevent future terror attacks? Or will this just be an undue burden for the average burner phone user?