Friday 7 December 2012

Mumbai telcos to verify addresses in person before issuing SIM cards

The next time you buy a new SIM card, don’t be surprised if you see your address being verified by the service provider's personnel before you're handed one. The Times of India reports that following a high-level meeting convened by Joint Commissioners Himanshu Roy and Sadanand Date, a new rule has come into effect. The rule affirms that the address of a subscriber will be verified in person before they are sold a SIM card.

Roy noted that several SIM cards were being purchased under fake names to carry out terrorist activities in the country. He added that mobile service providers have been asked to follow the Telecom Ministry's guidelines, dated August 9, 2012. At the meeting, which was attended by representatives of several mobile service providers, telcos were asked to adhere to the government guidelines to prevent SIM card misuse.

Service providers were briefed that in 2010, an elaborate attempt had been made to identify fake SIM card users from existing databases. Roy added, "We had registered criminal cases against those who provided fake addresses and a list of cards had been submitted to the service providers for deactivation. Unfortunately, while the cards were deactivated, the service providers did not initiate criminal proceedings against erring subscribers."

Mobile service providers will now be required to provide a detailed list of retailers across Mumbai. Roy went ahead and warned that retailers found selling SIM cards to fake subscribers would be blacklisted and a list of their names would be forwarded to all service providers.

Other suggestions brought up in the meeting included additional security measures like installing CCTVs in shops and recording subscribers when their SIM cards were activated. As for the suggestion of installing CCTVs inside shops, representatives shared that the lack of finance would make it difficult for most of them to install one in their shops. One representative shared, "We have 7,000 retailers in the metropolis, and it will be a very costly affair."

Recently, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) asked service providers to not provide mobile connections with validities of more than three months to foreign tourists in the country. The guidelines further instruct service providers that while issuing a SIM card to a foreign tourist, the latter's passport with a valid visa ought to be considered as the proof. This move by the government, evaluated by the Union Home Ministry, is an attempt to curb the misuse of SIM cards issued to foreign nationals by locals.  

The guidelines read, "Any mobile connection issued to a foreigner should not have a validity beyond the validity of the visa. In case of foreign tourists, the validity of connection should not be beyond the visa period and also not exceed three months at a time even if the validity of the visa is beyond three months."

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