Fake identity sims a nightmare for agencies
Salis bin Perwaiz
Karachi: A man found to have had 7,000 cellular connections in his name was in all likelihood unaware that these SIMs (subscriber identity modules) were taken out in his name.
Recently, the police had apprehended a criminal involved in a serious offence and discovered that the cell phone number he used was registered under another name. Shockingly, the same Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) had been used to issue a staggering 7,000 SIMs. These connections were given without the knowledge of the man whose name was used at the time of registration.
Despite several warnings by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, cellular companies have failed to block SIMs issued under fake identities and many investigators believe that these connections are being used by terrorists to carry out their criminal activities.
This is not the first time that the interior minister directed service providers to block SIMs issued to people using false identities. However, most of these efforts have gone in vain. Observers suggested that the ministry take strict action to resolve this issue.
Recently, the police arrested two suspected extortionists from the Defence area of the city and found 85 SIM cards used by the alleged criminals. They used these connections to extort money from a number of traders and when the police tried to verify the SIMs, they were found to have been registered under false names and CNICs.
Referring to the past, an official said that previously kidnappers would send a written note or letter to the family of the victim and in some cases also show video footage, while asking for ransom. In later times, the expanding PCO industry was used as a tool by the kidnappers, but despite this, law enforcers managed to dismantle several networks of kidnappers.
But the boom in the cell phone industry allowed criminal elements to take full advantage of the false SIMs being issued. The officer said that in an effort to avoid the relevant authorities from pinpointing their exact location, kidnappers would keep change their locations at the time of placing their calls.
He added that a number of victims who managed to return safely from the clutches of their kidnappers told investigators that the criminals would usually have a bag full of illegal SIMs that they would use.
Security officials said that these illegal SIMs of various cellular companies could be purchased at cheap prices from the market and were being used in Pakistan. Such connections have become a nuisance for law enforcement agencies as a large number of criminals use these illegal SIMs in terrorist threats, bomb hoaxes and kidnapping for ransom cases.
In an effort to promote their business, cellular companies had been selling SIMs at cheap prices and they usually cost between Rs100 and Rs150. A few years ago, a number of service providers had emerged on the scene and various companies had reduced the prices of connections to get ahead of the competition.
Before this period, just two companies were the major players in the market and a new SIM would be issued for between Rs3,000 and Rs5,000. Back then, cellular companies would ask subscribers to fill out application forms and provide a copy of their national identity cards as proof of their identity. Today, however, a number of Public Call Office (PCO) owners and street vendors are selling SIMs of cellular companies without taking a copy of the customer’s CNIC.
When contacted, a senior officer confirmed that the issuance of SIMs under false identification proved to a major issue for law enforcement agencies as criminals used these in a number of illegal activities, such as terrorist attacks, kidnapping for ransom and extortion cases.
He urged cellular companies to take serious notice of this extremely important issue and to deliver SIMs at the doorstep of their subscribers. In many cases, these illegal SIMs are also used to harrass women.
The official concluded by saying that earlier on, cell phone companies would provide law enforcement agencies with details of a particular number. However, he added that because of the large amount of numbers being issued under false identities, service providers had stopped divulging the necessary information. This is despite the fact the some of those numbers had been used to place phone calls for criminal purposes.
Many believed that the laws needed an amendment to ensure the identification of subscribers.
Source: The News