American phone carriers have found a lucrative new market in selling the government the ability to wiretap their customers, according to CBS News.

AT&T and Verizon are the two carriers making the most off this scheme, CBS notes, but others are getting in on the action as well.

Verizon is particularly pricey, charging the government $775 to connect a wiretap, and another $500 every month it stays connected.

AT&T comes in second with a $325 activation fee, along with a $10-a-day running tab. Smaller carriers like Cricket are said to charge around $250 per connection. Smaller fees were associated with text messages, but emails were largely given away for free.

The details were revealed in letters the companies sent to Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) last year, CBS noted. AT&T estimated that it took in over $24 million in wiretapping fees from 2007-2011, the report adds.

Verizon's disclosure letter (PDF) contained similar numbers, and fees have been collected since 2009.

CBS also added that the average wiretap is estimated to cost about $50,000 in reimbursements and operating expenses.


[Man enjoying rain of money via Shutterstock]