Exposing the Safelink Wireless government cell phone for the poor scam

by editor on March 11, 2009

Today we ran the story of Michelle Obama serving risotto at the soup kitchen down the street from the White House. She was surrounded by poor people frantically snapping photos with their cell phones.

If you’re anything like us (and we understand completely if you don’t want to be) you wondered, how can the poor afford cell phones, fancy ones with cameras? The monthly bills on these things can eat you alive. Is there some sort of free government cell phone service we didn’t know about?

Safelink Wireless Free Government Cell Phones

We were tipped off to the Safelink Wireless website. But please be warned that if you visit this site you are likely to walk away pissed off. Here’s what it says:

“SafeLink Wireless is a government supported program 
that provides a free cell phone and airtime each
 month for income-eligible customers.”

free government cell phone from safelink wireless

Hello? Hello? Can anyone hear us complaining about this outrageous abuse?

“Lifeline Assistance is part of a program that was created by the government to provide discounted or free telephone service to income-eligible consumers. To help bring you this important benefit, SafeLink Wireless is proud to offer Lifeline Service. Through our Lifeline Service you will receive FREE cellular service, a FREE cell phone, and FREE Minutes every month! SafeLink Wireless Service does not cost anything – there are no contracts, no recurring fees and no monthly charges.”

“Any Minutes you do not use will roll-over. Features such as caller ID, call waiting and voicemail are all also included with your service. If you need additional Minutes, you can buy TracFone Airtime Cards at any TracFone retailer Walmart, Walgreens, Family Dollar, etc). SafeLink Airtime Cards will be available soon.”

“Your exact benefits, including the number of free Minutes you will receive, depend on the state you live in.”

Free cell phone from Safelink Wireless: how to qualify

“The process to qualify for Lifeline Service depends on the State you live in. In general, you may qualify if…

  1. You already participate in other State or Federal assistance program such as Federal Public Housing Assistance, Food Stamps and Medicaid. OR
  2. Your total household income is at or below 135% of the poverty guidelines set by your State and/or the Federal Government. AND
  3. No one in your household currently receives Lifeline Service through another phone carrier.
  4. You have a valid United States Postal Address. In order for us to ship you your free phone you must live at a residence that can receive mail from the US Post Office. Sorry, but P.O. Boxes cannot be accepted.

In addition to meeting the guidelines above you will also be required to provide proof of your participation in an assistance program, or proof of your income level.

Un-freakin-believable. Outrageous. Shocking.

The way we read it, this Safelink Wireless program gives you a free cell phone, free monthly service, and free minutes. You qualify even if you make 35% more than the designated “poverty” level or if you’re already getting additional freebies from the government. And we see nothing that indicates you have to be a legal resident of the United States to qualify.

The site is also available in Spanish, leading to the not-too-unreasonable conclusion that a significant percentage of the free cell phones applicants conceivably could be, may be, might be undocumented aliens.

And, for God’s sake, we don’t even want to know how many of those filling out a Safelink application are currently stiffing a bank on a mortgage they never really qualified for in the first place.

We think we’re going to have a stroke. Would someone please call 911 on their free cell phone?

Note: Now Assurance Wireless (Virgin) and ReachOut Wireless (Nexus) are in the game. They plus other minor players account for 8 million government phones in circulation.