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Hoax - 'Lawful Interception Recovery Fee' on AT&T Bill

Message claims that users under surveillance are being charged a "lawful interception fee" to cover the cost of wiretapping their phones. As proof, the message includes an image depicting an AT&T bill that lists the alleged fee.

© Bolshakov

Brief Analysis
The message is a hoax and the image of the bill has been digitally manipulated. There are anomalies in the way the fee items are listed that indicate that the image is fake (see below for details).  There are no other reports about such a fee and no other photos. And, an AT&T spokesperson has denied the existence of any such fee.

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I was looking at my bill and didn't know what this lawful interception fee was....I googled it......WIRE TAPPING!!! I called and they said its a new fee for the... cost incurred from the government. I don't have anything to hide so if they wanna tap my phone go ahead.....but why should I have to pay for it??!!! 
This is ridiculous, please share this so we can get the word out there. Oh, and check your bills people!! 

Lawful Interception Recovery Fee Hoax

Detailed Analysis

According to a message going viral on Facebook and other social media outlets, people with phones being monitored by government agencies are now being charged a "lawful interception fee" to cover the cost of wiretapping. The message features a photograph of a bill from US telecommunications provider AT&T that lists the alleged interception fee.

However, the message is a hoax and the image has been manipulated to suit the goals of the prankster responsible.  There is no such thing as a "lawful interception fee".

A closer inspection of the image reveals telltale anomalies:

1: There are 6 surcharge amounts listed, but only five items.  A fee of 61 cents is orphaned at the top of the list.

2: The surcharge amounts do not add up to the listed total.  Even if you exclude the orphaned 61 cents, the total amount is still incorrect.

These inconsistencies are enough by themselves to suggest that a picture of an old AT&T bill has been photoshopped to include the supposed "lawful interception fee".

Moreover, the message appears to be the only existing report of such a fee. If real, the fee would certainly generate a great deal of online angst and discussion. Other users would have surely submitted images of their own bills with the interception fee listed. And yet, there are no discussions other than those commenting on the very same message and photograph.   Nor are there any mainstream news reports about the alleged fee.

And, wiretapping can be an extremely expensive exercise. In the face of such costs, the 23-cent fee listed on the bill would hardly be worth pursuing.  Such a tiny surcharge would likely be negligible in relation to the real cost of a wiretapping operation.  Furthermore, given that wiretapping is only effective if the tapped target doesn't know about it, it seems rather strange that the government would potentially give the game away by allowing a fee to be listed on the target's phone bill.

Finally, AT&T representatives have told About Urban Legends and others that there is no such fee or surcharge.

The message claims that the warning was removed - presumably at the behest of shady government operatives intent on suppressing information about the supposed fee - and urges users to share it quickly before it is again removed. However, given that the message and picture has been posted and shared many thousands of times, that claim is clearly nonsense.

Thus, the message is just another silly prank and should not be taken seriously.  

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Last updated: August 14, 2013
First published: August 14, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
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Lawful Interception Recovery Fee

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