In this third and final instalment on the proliferation of fraudulent and illegally pre-registered SIMs, we explore how ordinary people unknowingly become victims of identity theft and continue to suffer at the hands of uncooperative service providers
Thousands of people are being inconvenienced daily by fraudsters who are registering SIM cards against their stolen National Identification Card (NID) numbers.
Among them is Aminul Islam, a 30-year-old embroider from the Mollartek area of Dhaka's Dakshin Khan.
Aminul used his NID card to legitimately register three SIMs: one for his wife, one for his mother and one for himself. When he was about to buy another SIM card, he received astonishing news.
Another 40 Teletalk SIM cards had already been registered using his NID number, causing his NID to be blocked.
The Teletalk customer care centre was unable to resolve the matter so Aminul filed a case with his local police station. He was told by officers to contact the cyber crime division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
After much hassle, Aminul succeeded in getting the “fake” numbers unregistered.
Like Aminul, many other subscribers are falling victim to this widespread SIM card, and face various obstacles when they try to get their SIM cards unblocked. Most are not even aware of their NID numbers being used for such purposes.
In another case, Shafiul Islam, the manager of Sharaf Pharmacy from the Jhawtola area of Bogura, discovered that his national identification and fingerprints had been used to register three Robi SIM cards.
When Shafiul went to Robi's customer care office in Rajshahi, he found that two of those numbers were already blocked. Adding to his frustration, customer care representatives informed him that in order to get those numbers unregistered, he needed to first unblock them.
“I am unable to get those numbers unregistered, being the victim of this fraud myself,” Shafiul said. “I was not even aware of this and now I am finding out that those numbers have been blocked for some reason already.”
Shafiul said he will be unable to take 15 other SIM cards in future with his own NID number, as permitted by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
A businessman of Mymensingh's Gaforgaon Kandi Belabo area, Shariful Islam, said there were five SIM cards being used using his NID number and fingerprints: two Grameenphone and three Robi-Airtel numbers.
He said: “If those numbers are used for anything illegal, who will bear the consequences? Ultimately, the law enforcers will come to my doorstep.”
Shariful said he had received no assistance from the customer care offices in Mymensingh of those respective mobile phone operators, and was told to contact the operators in Dhaka.
According to the BTRC, anyone worried about becoming a victim of fraud can find out how many SIM cards are registered with his or her NID number by messaging the number “16001” with the last three digits of their NID number.
A reply message will then state the number of SIM cards registered.
“Mobile phone operators are constantly competing to get the maximum number of subscribers,” a source said.
Hence, no proper measures are being taken to prevent “fake” numbers from getting registered, while the 15 SIM-limit with a single NID card is also being flouted.
However, the secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB), Nurul Kabir, said the mobile phone companies are not involved with the fraud.
“These are done by dishonest retailers. We are going to cancel their licenses if they are caught,” he said.
Although the SIM card distributors are being pressured to restrict the daily SIM card registration to a certain quantity, they still register multiple numbers using information from a single NID card and its associated fingerprints. They then sell those extra SIM cards to various criminal rings at a higher price before calculating the month's expenses.
The Deputy Commissioner of Tejgaon police division, Biplob Kumar, said Airtel employees regularly issue 400 to 500 SIM cards by taking fingerprints of some other subscriber.
“Following this example, paid Airtel employees and agents registered thousands of SIM cards everyday using the fingerprints of someone else,” he said. l
This article was first published on banglatribune.com