Get A Better Cellphone Deal By Being Immigrant?

A reader tip suggests you can get a better deal on a cellphone by being an immigrant.

Purchase your cellphone and plan over the phone and inform them you don’t have a Social Security number.

Apparently, this grants you the power of a better credit rating, and… no early termination fee if you cancel.

Our reader did this with Sprint, at the customer service reps’s prompting, and his letter is inside. — BEN POPKEN

    “I was recently looking for a wireless connection card.. I tried a few places ,and shopped around ,and found some pretty good deals..Being a sprint pcs customer, I decided to go down and see if they would add a wireless card to my plan.. Well of course I was denied ( the great perks of being a long time sprint customer, and I am forbidden to pay by credit card, and I cannot add a new line of service)

    Just as I was about to give up, the sprint rep said there was another way he could get me the service, but that he would have to enter my information without a ss number ( in his terms, I would have to be considered an immigrant..) I said ok lets try it like that , and sure enough I was approved , with an even better credit rating then I originally had with sprint. Its so sad that these companies will cater to “immigrants” more then they will cater to their loyal customers.. He mentioned some of the perks , like if I was to cancel early, I wouldn’t have to pay termination fees , because being an immigrant, they had no tracking of my ss number.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. NeoteriX says:

    I can’t imagine the policy behind this. Maybe the CSR assumed it was “immigrant” status or was told that as idle watercooler chat.

  2. magic8ball says:

    This conversation may have been had before at Consumerist, b

  3. RumorsDaily says:

    No early termination fee, no social security number? I wonder if they required a credit card or a down payment? That sounds loopy.

  4. Pelagius says:

    After I was turned down for a Visa from United Airlines (that paragon of thrift and good business), my wife the resident alien with three months in the US got one with no problems whatsoever. And a fat credit limit. There might be something to this “No background, no problem!” approach to credit…

  5. Sideline Reporter says:

    i am constantly baffled by the decision making process behind issuing credit cards and determining credit limits.

    i didn’t have a credit card in college, which is admittedly a mistake. still, when i graduated and tried to apply for a credit card it was nearly impossible, despite the fact that i had paid all my (high) rent on time, all my cell phone bills promptly, and was making a fairly high salary. i ended up having to go through a friend of a friend who worked at citi to help sign me up!

    i understand that i had no credit history, but neither did these ssn-less people and they seemed to have gotten approved for things right away!

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Okay…if, when applying for a credit card, you state that you do not have a SSN (and you actually do), can that be credit card fraud? Falsifying information to get a higher credit limit, defrauding the company. If not “credit card fraud”, I can see it possibly going against the terms of the agreement, then the company can possibly take some sort of action against you.

    But…if you do get in trouble, can any of this get followed up on if they don’t have your SSN?

  7. Gari N. Corp says:

    This sounds well fishy. Sprint has traditionally been much more willing than its competitors to provide monthly fee plans to those with poor or no credit histories. Plus, their salesmen are almost as dodgy as Cingular’s.

    But it could be true. I’m an immigrant (albeit with a SSN), and had huge problems getting hold of credit cards and cellphone contracts for a good three years. Maybe not supplying an SSN works better than supplying an SSN with no credit history.

  8. wreckingcru says:

    I remember this happened to my college friend from abroad, when he applied for a cell phone.

    But in lieu of not being able to determine credit-worthiness, they took a $300-$400 deposit from him (returnable when he cancels service, or after a couple of years – I’m not quite sure about the duration).
    This was abt 5 years ago, so I don’t know how things have changed since.

  9. wega says:

    I support that not having a SS# ends up costing you more. I worked in a SprintPCS store in college and we gave the lowest non-negative credit score to those without a SS# (and a $125 deposit). Just FYI.

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    Wow. Say you’re an immigrant and mention “Happy Holidays” and watch Bill O’Reilly’s head explode!!

  11. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Okay, I just came off giving a seminar on Identity Theft and am working up the guts for the next one…I mention in mine, and have heard mentioned in other related publications, the injunction to never never give out your SSN unless absolutely necessary. Way more ID Thefts are perpetrated by corrupt employees than computer hackers, and I’m supposed to write down the most sensitive piece of information I have and leave it with a counter-jockey? WTFH?

    SSNs are the single biggest concern with regards to ID theft today. The President’s Identity Theft Task Force, in their Interim Recommendations (, lists as the #1 issue reducing the unnecessary use of Social Security Numbers by businesses and government agencies. Not to mention the Social Security Act — Federal law, mind you — forbids using SSNs as identification by anybody except the IRS and your employer (the Patriot Act added banks to the list).

    So what am I missing? Why should Sprint be able to get your SSN anyway? Why shouldn’t I tell them to shove it, like I do the cable company, utility company, etc.? (Or give them Nixon’s SSN, like I do when I’m feeling snarky and some screwball wants it? Nixon’s SSN, by the way, is 567-68-0515. If you memorize it and use it whenever someone who can’t verify your SSN anyway (i.e. everyone not permitted to by law, see above), then you can just regurgitate it when they ask for the last 4 or whatever as proof of identity. It works, though ever since my job has become largely about ID-Theft education, I’ve just been telling people to eff off instead of bothering with a fake number.)

    Anyway. Interested to see what the justification for this is.


  12. acambras says:

    So Mary Marsala With Fries,

    I would love to tell cell phone companies, cable companies, etc. to go to hell and refuse to give them my SSN. Is it possible to do that and still get the cell phone, cable, etc.? Or can they just tell you to eff off and refuse to do business with you?

  13. NeoteriX says:

    It was my assumption that they needed your SN to check your credit, no?

  14. spanky says:

    I too am appalled that people give shady cell phone companies their SSNs. I use my cell phone so rarely, I’m on a pay as you go plan now (about $7 a month–I rock!), but I don’t remember giving it out for any of my previous contracts either. And that’s the kind of thing I’d remember.

    I use Nixon’s SSN, too, but I’m afraid that one is going to reach saturation point soon, if it hasn’t already. As such, I propose we start using Bebe Rebozo’s number, 266-14-7646. (I just looked it up in the SSDI.)

  15. synergy says:

    My husband, a resident alien, couldn’t get a credit card until I put his name on the bank loan for our car. Then he got an offer for a small balance credit card from the same bank. Now he’s been using that one card to build credit history.

    The part about not being allowed to use a credit card to auto-pay? That’s horse pucky. That’s the way I pay my Sprint bill and I’ve been with them for over 6 years. That person needs to get a competent rep on the phone.

  16. meandertail says:

    I’m surprised by this too. My (resident) alien husband had a similar problem to yours, synergy. He couldn’t get a credit card to save his life. I think he finally got one at his work credit union AND his boss had to co-sign on it. And, actually, he had a similar problem getting a cell phone so they had to be in my name. Granted, that was a few years ago, so maybe this has changed a bit. Also, you get an SSN when you’re a RA, so I don’t get that part of this either.

  17. alien says:

    If the Social Security Act indeed forbids using SSNs as identification by anybody except the IRS and your employer, you should be able to get a phone, cable, credit card, etc. without it. Can somebody comment on this further? How can you avoid givnig out SSN?