Darryl Nelson studied the completed application form in his hands. He’d never heard of TerraCom Inc., a company offering subsidized phone service through the federal Lifeline program.
Quantrell Ross slipped into a world of rescue missions and daytime homeless shelters two years ago, when he longer could make ends meet by cutting grass and painting.
The Scripps News investigative team uncovered 170,000 records containing personal information like social security numbers, birth dates, social security cards, drivers licenses and food stamp cards.
EDITORIAL | Lifeline is a federal Reagan-era program intended to provide discounted phone service to low-income Americans.
What can concerned applicants or clients do to protect themselves?
The story focuses on security breaches for the Lifeline cellphone program. The program is federally funded and provides discount phone service to low-income Americans. The Scripps News investigative team uncovered 170,000 records containing personal information including Lifeline applications and records containing social security numbers, birth dates, social security cards, drivers licenses and food stamp cards. The records span 26 states.
-- Scripps News discovered the records through a simple Google search. They were collected for two Lifeline carriers, Oklahoma City-based TerraCom Inc. and affiliate YourTel America Inc.
-- The phone companies said records of 343 individuals were accessed by unknown parties between March 24 and April 26.
-- The records uncovered by Scripps date back eight months. It’s unclear how TerraCom could fully assess the breach because its 30-day history of website visitors doesn’t cover the entire period when records were publicly available.
-- The FCC forbids carriers from retaining Lifeline applicants’ proof of program eligibility, but the publicly posted TerraCom records include 127,000 such records dating back to September.