Top Hewlett Packard executives might be confused about whether pretexting is illegal, but two phone companies aren’t. Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless filed lawsuits Friday against investigators hired by HP, alleging they used fraud to obtain billing records in a probe of boardroom leaks. Pretexting is when an investigator poses as a phone company customer and tricks the company into providing customer records. The pretexter ususally needs the Social Security number of the victim. Verizon’s suit, filed in New Jersey, seeks an order that immediately stops investigators from pretexting, according to Bloomberg news. Verizon claimed in its suit that the investigators “used fraud, trickery, and deceit to access confidential customer information.”
Named as defendants in the Cingular suit are rivate detective Charles Kelly and his Carrollton, Ga., firm, CAS Agency Inc. They are accused of fraudulently obtaining phone records of a Cnet.com reporter and providing them to HP. Verizon’s suit doesn’t name any defendants at this time, but will likely be amended as more information surfaces. Press reports say HP’s investigators included, in addition to Kelly, Joe Depante of Action Research; Ron DeLia of Security Outsourcing Solutions; Darren Brost, Brian Wagner, Valerie Preston of InSearchOf Investigations; and Cassandra Selvage of Eye in the Sky Investigations.