By now, almost every investigator understands the value of cell phone forensics research and recovery of deleted text messages from cell phone. The recent introduction of mobile phone forensics tools and services is arguably the most significant advance in the forensics industry since the invention of the magnifying glass. If a researcher can obtain approval or ownership of a cellular device, he can obtain call logs, call details, text messages, photos, videos, and even voicemail. The amount of information that can be recovered is amazing. There is probably no better investigative tool today. But not every investigator is aware that forensics and deleted data recovery can be successful with pre-paid cell phones.
Privacy-conscious people will use a prepaid mobile phone as it is not required to provide your name, address or telephone number when purchasing a telephone or setting up a telephone service. This is why pre-paid cell phones, also known as throw-away phones, are so popular with drug dealers, criminals, and unfaithful spouses. The entire process can be carried out anonymously for cash, leaving no paper trail of the identity of the phone user. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to perform a reverse lookup to a phone number or obtain a customer’s name and address. But the phone’s internal memory is no different from any other phone, and the saved or deleted data can still be recovered and reduced to a report.
There is no physical difference between AT&T’s Blackberry and a prepaid online Blackberry. Both phones can be forensically examined for data recovery and both tests will return the same amount of data. Likewise, you can call the Telephone Company Records Keeper and get all the detailed call records for a prepaid number just like you would with a normal monthly billed phone number.
In the case of a forensic examination of a mobile phone to retrieve deleted texts and phone numbers from a pre-paid phone, the investigator has an advantage over the owner of the device. Most people who use this type of anonymous discarded phones do not realize that a forensic examination will recover all the deleted information. Once this information is reduced to a report, it can be submitted as evidence in court. A telephone can be connected to the owner if it is in his possession at the time of seizure, or in some cases there are selected telephone numbers or other identifying information on the telephone in order to connect him with the owner.
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