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When the National Communication Authority (NCA) announced for SIM card registration and Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in January 18, 2010 and July 7, 2011 respectively, many Ghanaians heaved a sigh of relief, believing that it would curb a lot of criminal activity associated with the use of mobile phones.

However, with the present trend of people just registering existing and new SIMs and porting existing cell phone numbers to other networks without providing any form of identification as required by the legislative framework regulating the exercise, obviously, renders the whole exercise that precious state resources were used to advertise needless.

Noble as the exercise was, particularly when the NCA announced during its sensitization program prior to the start of the registration that the exercise will help curb incidents such as loss of phone through theft, nuisance text messages, scams, threats, raising unnecessary alarms or creating panic, deliberately or otherwise, traders who hawk SIM cards; sometimes acting as agents for some of the telecom operators, per our investigation register SIM cards or port numbers without requesting for any required identification card.

In this, existing or new prospective subscribers, who intend to use the SIM card to perpetrate fraud or other nefarious activities, manage to register or port their numbers with fake names, fictional residential address and imaginary dates of birth.

In line with the licensing requirement of all the telecom operators as provided for in the Electronic Communication Act, Act 775, 2008, which mandates all telecom operators to keep the data of their subscribers, in order to register a new or an existing SIM card, “individuals must provide a valid photo-ID such as; Driver’s License, Passport, NHIS card, Voter’s ID and National ID Card whiles foreigners are required to use passports or any other travel document.

Several weeks of investigations by The Al-Hajj has shown that, in spite of the NCA’s description of such act as illegal and criminal, some agents of the telecom companies continues to use fake bio-data to register SIM cards, and then sell it at cut throat prices to people, mostly foreigners without the required ID cards.

In most cases, those without the ID cards and who cannot afford the price of the ‘pre-registered” SIMs are allowed to provide their own unverifiable details to activate a SIM card.

Worrying as this may be, our investigations also revealed that some registration agents aid and abet prospective new subscribers to port existing numbers of people to other networks, thereby robbing and cutting off the original owners of such numbers.

The Al-Hajj has unearthed that some fraudsters, particularly those into cyber fraud approach registration agents without ID cards; and sometimes induce them with money to allow them port numbers of other existing subscribers, mostly beginning with either 0244, 0277, 0208, 0266 and 0233, which obviously does not belong to them, but in no time become theirs after porting.

The notion is that, numbers beginning with such digits are owned by well to do or ‘big men’ in the society.

For instance, if these crooks want to port an MTN number to Tigo, the one wanting to port will approach the agent and tell him, he wants to port MTN to Tigo, but he is without any ID card and the SIM card of the number he wants to port.

Because the agents are paid based on the number of SIMs ported and in the bid to port as many SIMs as possible, the registration agent will remark “give me something and I will do it for you.”

The agent will then take the fake details of the imposter porting the number and then coach him by saying “when you get home, insert the MTN chip you want to port to Tigo into your phone and send PORT to 6060 as a message…wait for a while, you will receive a message from 7070, after that remove the MTN chip and insert the Tigo chip and dial 842…load two cedisTigo recharge card on it and start using it.”

During the investigation, it was unraveled that because the imposter/s are not able to get the numbers they want to port immediately, they manage to use other people’s IDcards (lost cards) to get the original number they had parted from the service providers through very crafty means.

For instance, they go with lost ID cards of other innocent people to get the numbers under the pretext of replacing a lost SIM card.

They then use the number for a number of ‘operations’ including defrauding unsuspecting foreigners and sometimes Ghanaians. A typical case in point was when the NCA on February 6, 2012 released a report, which indicated that of all the ID cards submitted for verification that year, a colossal 5,580,875 came out as registered with invalid ID cards.

Surprising, however, The Al-Hajj uncovered that should all telecom operators in Ghana decide to go according to provisions in the SIM Registration Regulation, LI 2006, which legally mandates operators to legally deactivate all unregistered SIMs in the country, millions of subscribers will be disengaged, despite having ‘duly’ registered their SIMs.

This is because; many subscribers, who have registered their SIMS as far back as 2010, still have their registration pending. Ordinarily, subscribers this reporter approached when asked to send a blank message on their phones to 400 on all networks to confirm their registration status, either receive this message “confirmation of your registration is still pending; however, please be assured your number will not be disconnected. Visit any of our office to re-register your earliest convenience,” or receive messages on their phones that their SIMs have been registered in another person’s name.

Watertight Evidence

For the avoidance of doubt, this reporter managed to register MTN, TIGO, AIRTEL, GLO AND VODAFONE SIMs with five different bio-data without any ID card and ported and existing AIRTEL number in a different name, also without an ID card.

Numbers below were registered by this reporter with different bio-data;

Number: 0543741517

Name: Ibrahim Ali

Date of Birth: September 2, 1988

Number: 0508787850

Name: Nii Armah Aayittey

Date of Birth: January 5, 1983

Number: 0263663822

Name: Michael Adu Gyamfi

Date of Birth: March 18, 1984

Number: 057484171

Name: Isaac Somuah

Date of Birth: December 10, 1981

Number: 0236888470

Name: Michael Dodzi

Date of Birth: August 9, 1984

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