Say Goodbye to Anonymous Prepaid Phones - TheStreet

Faisal Shahzad failed to destroy Times Square but he may have inadvertently caused the end of anonymous prepaid cell phones.

Last month, Shahzad was busted for allegedly trying to use a car bomb to blow up part of Times Square. Shahzad had already boarded a plane and was moments away from fleeing the country when he was apprehended. Authorities later disclosed that the key clue they had was a prepaid cell phone that had been used to buy the infamous car. Shahzad had registered for the phone anonymously, but luckily police were able to use a number he dialed to track him down.

Now, legislators are debating the lessons from Shahzad’s case. According to The New York Times, a bipartisan bill has been proposed in the Senate that would require consumers to present their ID when signing up for a prepaid cell phone. The hope is that this would make it easier for law enforcement to track down criminals like Shahzad who hide behind these cell phones.

As it stands, consumers interested in buying prepaid cell phones are not required to divulge their identity when registering. Instead, all you need to do is give a name, regardless of whether it’s your name, your pet’s name or a celebrity’s name. There are several reasons for this policy, like providing users with a rare bit of privacy and, perhaps even more importantly, making it easier for customers with bad credit to sign up for a cell phone.

However, according to critics, the people who take advantage of this policy tend to be criminals, drug dealers and gang members. But even if that’s the case, some might argue that it’s nice to have a form of communication with a little bit of privacy, since social networks seem to be publicizing all of our personal information.

Check out MainStreet’s roundup of customer complaints about cell phone companies.

What do you think? Should there be a federal law preventing consumers from doing this? Have you ever purchased a prepaid cell phone without giving your name? If so, why?

—For a comprehensive credit report, visit the Credit Center.