FCC warns imposters behind fake broadband subsidy website

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) flagged the discovery of a website which falsely offered to enroll consumers in the agency’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program and urged those who visited it to take steps to protect themselves against fraud.

Agency officials said in a press release a website run by an entity called WiFi Freedom USA imitated the government-run sign-up page, claiming to provide free devices and broadband service through the EBB program. They added consumers may have been drawn in by advertisements for the fake website seen on social media.

The FCC noted it has already taken steps to have the website disabled and a related social media page taken down. It is now working with law enforcement on next steps. However, it said consumers who may have visited the site should take additional action to protect themselves.

Those who provided personal information were urged to visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the incident and get help with a recovery plan. Consumers who made payments to WiFi Freedom USA were told to contact their bank to see “if there are any remedies available to you” and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.

It was not immediately clear how many consumers may have been impacted. 

The alert was issued the same day the FCC revealed EBB enrollment topped 5 million households, up from 4 million as of July 28. Enrollment data provided by the FCC showed more than 200,000 households signed up in each of the four weeks from August 2 to August 29.

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Acting FCC chairwoman Jessica Roseworcel said in a statement reaching the 5 million milestone “wouldn’t have been possible without the support of nearly 30,000 individuals and organizations who signed up as volunteer outreach partners.”

Enrollment for the program opened May 12 with more than 800 broadband providers participating. The FCC said in its update more than 1160 broadband providers have now signed on.

Thus far, only $378 million of the $3.2 billion in funding appropriated for the program has been used, with $348 million spent on monthly broadband support and $29.9 million used for connected devices.

California continued to lead as the state with the most households enrolled at 625,697, followed by Texas with 337,218 and Florida with 335,405. New York and Ohio rounded out the top five with 307,546 and 297,801 households participating, respectively.