Govt Steps In To Curb Cyber Fraud: Bulk Sales Of SIM Cards Banned

Swarajya Staff

Aug 18, 2023, 09:03 AM | Updated 09:03 AM IST

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

To combat the issue of fraudulent SIM cards, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has announced that dealers must now register with telecom operators, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Thursday (17 August).

In addition, the government plans to discontinue the practice of issuing bulk connections. Instead, businesses will be required to go through a thorough know-your-customer (KYC) process to obtain connections for their employees and other purposes.

As per a statement from the Ministry of Communications, the verification process will include a "written agreement" between the dealer and the telecom operator.

Currently, telecom operators are not obligated to maintain detailed documentation of dealers who sell their SIM cards.

Any dealer found engaging in illegal activities will face severe consequences. Their dealership will be terminated, and they will be blacklisted for a period of three years.

The ministry has set a deadline of one year for completing the verification process.

Vaishnaw assured a significant reduction in cyber fraud incidents within a year.

These measures are being implemented due to the vulnerability of Indians to various cyber threats amid the increasing number of online scams.

In 2021 alone, there were 14,007 registered cases of cyber fraud in India, according to information shared with Parliament last month.

Investigation agencies discovered that a network of 67,000 SIM dealers was distributing bulk connections to individuals without verifying their documents.

Since the launch of the Sanchar Saathi portal, the government has disconnected 52 lakh cellphone connections that were obtained using forged documents, Vaishnaw said.

These connections were then used for online scams through SIM boxes, which enable automated calls. Since May 2023, the government has filed 300 FIRs against fraudulent dealers.

The provision of bulk connections has been discontinued by the DoT and will be replaced by a new procedure for business connections.

“Besides, KYC of businesses, KYC of persons taking the handover of SIM will also be done,” Vaishnaw said, reports Indian Express.

Businesses are allowed to have any number of mobile connections, but all end-users must complete the KYC process. Activation of SIM cards will only occur after successful KYC of the end-users and physical verification of the business's address.

Vaishnaw said that 66,000 WhatsApp accounts have been blocked following incidents of mass spamming. Additionally, 8 lakh payment wallet accounts that were involved in fraudulent transactions have also been blocked.

Through the Sanchar Saathi portal, 3 lakh handsets have been located and returned to their respective owners.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed a facial recognition tool based on Artificial Intelligence. This tool can analyse subscriber databases of telecom operators to identify multiple connections linked to the same individual.

By using this tool, the DoT aims to identify subscribers who have obtained multiple SIM cards using the same government ID.

The DoT also shares a list of these numbers with banks, payment wallets, and social media platforms to disconnect these numbers from their platforms.

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