Morrisville residents discovering they’re victims of ‘vanishing iPhone’ scam


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Thousands of dollars’ worth of iPhones are being billed to local residents and then being stolen, leaving the phone company and victims holding the bag.

Morrisville police estimate $43,000 worth of phones and related equipment has been lost to theft and they’ve discovered another $50,000 worth of attempted fraud by the criminals behind the scheme, which is targeting Sprint.

Police say they’ve caught a pair of suspects, but investigators think there are more perpetrators still out there.

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Detectives say some of the victims found out about the fraud when they opened bills from Sprint and discovered multiple phones had been ordered in their name and were supposed to be delivered to their homes.

Police say the deliveries were intercepted by thieves before the homeowners ever saw the devices. It’s happened several times in Morrisville in the last month.

“I suspect this is probably a large ring,’’ says Detective Angie Mullis.

Mullis explained how the operation works.

The criminals would first steal someone’s identity and then set up a Sprint account in their victim’s name. The scammers would then order multiple phones to be sent out via a delivery service.

“Whoever is in this ring and set up the ID theft would send out runners to steal the phones on the front porch after UPS delivered,” the detective explained.

In one of cases she investigated, she said suspects grabbed five iPhones worth over $3,800 dollars from a front porch as undercover investigators watched.

“We saw the UPS delivery was made and a few minutes later we saw a person walk up to the victims front porch and steal that box off front porch,’’ Mullis said.

Police say that person was Sasha Barnett, a 27-yr old from Brooklyn, New York. She was arrested along with 25-year-old Deion Brown, of Virginia, who police say was the getaway driver.

Morrisville police say the scheme isn’t confined to just this area.

“The person from Sprint says it’s happening all over the United States,” she said.

Mullis says Morrisville police are working with other local departments, Sprint, and at least one federal agency as they continue to try and track down other suspects they believe are involved in the scam.

“It’s still under investigation and we have to develop it further,” she said.

To protect yourself against this kind of crime, police recommend that you:

• Require all package deliveries to be signed for

• Double-check any email claiming you’re getting a package to make sure you ordered the item

• Check your credit report every three months to make sure your identity has not been compromised.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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