Heisted and Hacked: Illinois Family's Phone Plan Targeted by Thieves

Anna and Carlo Lini of Hinckley, Illinois, say they’ve never visited Pakistan or United Arab Emirates. But you wouldn’t know that if you looked at their recent cell phone bills.

“The calls are all the time,” Anna Lini told NBC5 Responds. “Somebody is having a whole bunch of great chats with their family abroad on our dime.”

The Linis say the first hint of fraud on their Sprint account arrived in the form of a bill last July, which ballooned to twice the amount they signed up for. The family had just switched over to Sprint in May, looking for an affordable plan for their growing family.

“One of the reasons we went to Sprint was they had a promotion,” Anna Lini said.

She and her husband picked Samsung Galaxy models, which ended up being almost free, she says. But two months in, their bills suddenly reflected two additional phones: iPhone 7 Plus models, among the most expensive available.

When the couple complained to Sprint, they said they had full confidence the carrier’s fraud department would get to the bottom of the issue. Shortly after opening the fraud case, the Linis received a letter in the mail that appeared to be related: addressed to a man they’d never heard of, at their home address.

“It said, ‘Dear Demetrius Evans, we’re so sorry but we can’t verify your identity so we’re not going to be able to open this line of for you,’” Anna Lini said.

Case solved, the Linis say they presumed—until they got their next bill. Once again, it was more than double the expected amount. But this time, they say, they were also locked out of their Sprint account online.

When the couple called and spoke to a customer service representative, the Linis say they got an unexpected answer.

“We got through to the fraud department and they said, ‘Oh, we closed your case and decided there was no fraud,’” Anna Lini said. “They just closed the case without telling us that they’ve closed the case. It feels a little sneaky and we felt very in the dark at that point.”

Frustrated after spending hours getting nowhere with Sprint and facing a possible $1,400 fee to cancel the account, Anna Lini said she called NBC 5 Responds.

“I was surprised that you got back to me so quickly and from there the wheels were turning right away on getting this problem solved,” Anna Lini said. “It was really slow and then all of a sudden Channel 5 is involved and all these doors are flying open.”

When we contacted Sprint about the Linis’ case, the carrier responded by getting in touch with the family and wiping out the extra lines and related calls. A spokesperson confirmed fraud was involved and offered the following statement:

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Our Sprint Care team worked very closely with the customer to resolve their issues. Sprint is not alone in the wireless industry among carriers that have been affected by these types of fraudulent activities. Our teams are working proactively to identify these cases and address them before customers are affected.

In cases where this activity does occur, Sprint encourages customers to reach out to contact Care representatives for assistance. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience the customer experienced while trying to resolve this matter and want to reassure viewers that this is not a typical experience customers have. It’s our goal that after we can confirm fraudulent activities took place on an account, the customer will not be held responsible for any related charges.”

Relieved, Anna and Carlo Lini say Sprint still declined to answer one very important question: how the thieves impersonated Carlo and obtained the two new phones.

“I would love to know for us, moving forward, what do we need to be concerned about from here on out? Is it just a matter of someone having our Sprint account number? That doesn’t worry me as much as somebody possibly having Carlo’s social security number,” Anna Lini told NBC 5 Responds.

When asked why Sprint company did not answer that question for the Linis, a spokesperson twice told NBC 5 Responds the company would call the family to share whether or not a fake ID was used in the theft. Weeks later, the Linis said they are still awaiting that call.

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