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We’re not the only ones carriers are overcharging; cell phone wiretap fees revealed

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:22PM EST

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Cell phone bills are a tough pill to swallow each month, often reaching well into the hundreds-of-dollars range for families or even individuals. Regional and prepaid carriers offer some relief, but users who need nationwide coverage and a wide variety of handsets to choose from often have no choice but to pay a premium. According to documents recently obtained and published by the American Civil Liberties Union, consumers and business users aren’t the only ones overpaying wireless carriers for service. Read on for more.

A series of documents detailing the rates each of the four major U.S. carriers charge law enforcement agencies to execute cell phone wiretaps was unearthed last month, and as Forbes reports, the rates are fairly surprising — or perhaps unsurprising, considering how much consumers and businesses pay.

According to the documents, T-Mobile charges law enforcement agencies a flat fee of $500 per “target” to execute a wiretap on a mobile phone. Sprint charges a similar $400 fee along with a daily fee of $10 capped at $2,000 for ongoing monitoring. AT&T bills law enforcement $325 per tap plus $5 per day for data monitoring and $10 per day for voice monitoring, and Verizon Wireless charges $750 per month to tap a cell phone.

Other services incur additional fees, Forbes reports. Carriers charge between $30 and $150 for access to a target’s text messages and voicemail, for example, and the companies bill between $30 and $150 per tower per hour to monitor the numbers of every user accessing a certain cell tower. To track a target’s location, carriers charge as much as $100 per day.

Both Verizon and Sprint confirmed to Forbes that the companies do not charge police in the case of emergencies. AT&T and T-Mobile declined to comment on their respective wiretap policies.

Phone line worker image via Shutterstock

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.

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