Since AT&T increased the price of the iPhone 3GS from a bargainous FREE to the perplexing $0.99, we’ve all been asking the same question: Why? When Apple announced the iPhone 4S, they made a point of repricing the iPhone 3GS as a free option.

Why would AT&T take the unusual step or increasing the price of a handset that Apple itself had declared would be free, and increase it by just a dollar? Strange indeed.

The move was perhaps not as strange as we originally thought. One forum member claiming to work for AT&T believes they may have the answer, and it’s all about stopping fraudsters from stealing handsets…

According to MacRumors forum poster “Metcury46l,” AT&T has been suffering from a spot of fraud thanks to the nature of a free iPhone. With no upfront fee to be paid, fraudsters are able to steal a customer’s identity and effectively walk out of a store with a free iPhone 3GS. Requiring a fee, even a token (such as $0.99), means that a credit or debit card must be used, complete with a billing address.

“I work at AT&T, this is being done to help prevent fraud as the 99 cents cannot be billed to your bill. It must be charged to a credit or bank issued debt card. Fraudsters are using stolen identities to steal these handsets … been an issue since they went free.”

Makes sense to us! Those pesky scheisters ruining it for the rest of us once again!

Mystery solved, folks. Move along, now.