By now just about every investigator understands the value of cell phone forensic examinations and recovering deleted text messages from a cell phone. The very recent introduction of cell phone forensic tools and services is probably the greatest advancement to the investigation industry since the invention of the magnifying glass. If an investigator can get consent or ownership of a cellular device they can obtain cal logs, call details, text messages, pics, videos and even voice mails. The amount of information that can be recovered is amazing. There is probably no better investigative tool available today.But not every investigator realizes that a cell phone forensics and deleted data recovery can be successful on prepaid cell phones.
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People concerned with privacy will use a prepaid cell phone because you are not required to provide a name address or phone number when you purchase the phone or establish phone service. That is why prepaid cell phone, also known as throw away phones are so popular with drug dealers, criminals and unfaithful spouses. The entire process can be accomplished anonymously with cash leaving no paper trail to the identity of the user of the phone. This makes it very difficult if not impossible to run a reverse search on the phone number or obtain a customer name and address. But the internal memory of the phone is no different that any other phone and stored or erased data can still be recovered and reduced to a report.
There is no physical difference between a Blackberry on AT&T or a Blackberry on a prepaid internet service. Both phones can be submitted to a forensic data recovery examination and both examinations would return the same amount of data. Likewise you can subpoena the phone companies custodian of records and obtain all the detailed calling records for a prepaid number just as you would a normal monthly billed phone number.
In the case of a cell phone forensic examination to recover deleted text and phone numbers from a prepaid phone the investigator has the advantage over the owner of the device. Most people that use these types of throw away anonymous phones are unaware 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. The phone can be connected to the owner if it is in their possession at the time of seizure or in some cases phone numbers dialed or other identifying information can be found in the phone to connect it to the owner.