Law enforcement sirens

Trouble At Q Link

On Wednesday, investigators from multiple federal agencies raided the office of Q Link Wireless and Hello Mobile. While I’m not sure what’s going on, I’m suspicious investigators are looking into possible misuse of the government’s Lifeline program.

The program offers telecom providers subsidies to help low-income consumers pay for phone or internet service. Fraud isn’t anything new for Lifeline. The FCC recently caught Sprint misusing the program. Sprint’s misuse ultimately lead to a $200 million fine.1

CBS4 covered the raid and shared this quote from Ivan Ramirez, a member of one of the agencies involved in the investigation:

We are looking into how they provide their services…If they are to provide a service that is backed by the federal government there are certain stipulations and guidelines that must be met. If they’re not meeting those guidelines or there are some situations where anomalies pop up somewhere we’re going to come in and look.

The websites for Q Link and Hello Mobile were down when I tried to access them on Wednesday, but both websites are back online now. This latest incident only adds to my reservations about both carriers. Just a few weeks ago, I was discussing Hello Mobile and shared my two cents about the company:

I’ve just been so floored by its [Hello Mobile’s] unprofessionalism…seen an outrageous number of customer support horror stories relative to the company’s size…Hello Mobile responded horribly to what was already a pretty unimpressive security failing…the company (or someone it hired) seems to have left spam comments on my site.

A Reddit comment gives a feel for the frequency of the customer support fiascos. Ars Technica covered the security issue. One of my blog posts discusses the spam comments.

Hat tip to Joe Paonessa of BestMVNO who alerted me about this story.

Image representing the idea of spam

Hello Mobile Spam

I’ve never used the Hello Mobile myself, but I’ve heard plenty of negative things about the carrier. Given how small Hello Mobile’s subscriber base is, the volume of negative reports is shocking. I like how a user in Reddit’s NoContract community, ruben3232, put it:

If there’s been an MVNO that’s had awful ‘reviews’ posted to the sub, it’s been Hello Mobile.

Today, I figured I’d post my own negative report. Hello Mobile seems to be using spam comments to promote the brand. Here’s a screenshot of two pending comments left on Coverage Critic:

Hello Mobile spam comments

I can’t be sure a Hello Mobile staff member (or a promoter hired by Hello Mobile) placed the comments, but I strongly suspect as much. While a competitor could be spamming to tarnish Hello Mobile’s reputation, I don’t find that plausible. Hello Mobile is a very small fish in the cellular market. Competing carriers have better ways to spend their time.