Proposed Legislation Would Crack Down on So-Called ‘Burner Phones’

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SACRAMENTO —

No contract. No ID. No name. Just a monthly bill, connected to the cell phone’s number, not the user.  That’s the deal with any number of different cell phone service providers.

“I like how it goes like this. I like how it works. Just pay as you go. It’s easy. It’s simple,” said a man named Johnny, who was buying a cell phone at a Boost Mobile store on Fruitridge Road in Sacramento.

But changes could be coming for pay-as-you-go cell phone customers.

San Mateo Congresswoman Jackie Speier is moving for a law that would require all cell phone companies to check IDs and keep records on who buys every cell phone.

FOX40 asked Johnny if he’d be OK with showing an ID and giving his name to get the cell phone he was buying.

“No. No. I like it this way. It easy… just put anybody. I just put Paul Walker just now,” he said.

But law enforcement is supporting the bill, in hopes of curbing the criminal use of what’s called “burner phones.”

“In many cases, that’s the way they do their business. They may have one transaction they’re doing, and they’ll buy burner phones just for that transaction. And once that transaction is done, they’ll get rid of that phone and buy another one,” said Sgt. Tony Turnbull of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

From drug trafficking to human trafficking and everything in between, Turnbull says when police investigations are thwarted by an unregistered cell phone, justice for victims can be thwarted, too.

How does he see cell phone involved in investigations?

“Almost every case,” he said. “Almost every case cell phones are involved in the investigations.”

Speier is also making the national security argument for her law — saying untraceable phones make for uncertain security.

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