NCA blames fraudulent SIM Registration on “Unscrupulous Agents”

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The National Communications Authority
The National Communications Authority

The National Communications Authority (NCA) is blaming the recently discovered fraudulent SIM Registration on “unscrupulous agents” of the telecom operators. 

Director of Consumer and Corporate Affairs at the NCA, Nana Defie Badu made the claim in an interview on Accra-based Asaase Radio.

This follows revelations of several people having found loads of SIM cards linked to their Ghana Cards, without their consent, some found as high as between 16 and 18 SIM cards linked to their Ghana Card, when the law actually says not more than 10 cards can be linked to one Ghana Card. Others found between 3 and 7.

The ongoing SIM registration in in two stages:

Stage 1 is where the SIM owner links the SIM to his/her Ghana Card on their own by dialling *404# and following the prompts. This stage does not expose the individual’s Ghana Card details to anyone because it is done privately.

Stage 2 is when one then goes to the telco’s office for their Ghana Card details, fingerprint, picture and digital address to be captured in spite of the fact that all those details are already on the Ghana Card. The NCA says Stage 2 is to establish ownership of the Ghana Card.

But Stage 2 caused a lots of long queues at SIM registration centres, mainly because of the rush to meet the NCA’s deadlines, and the fact that the NCA’s App for Stage 2 was slow and sloppy.

Following a huge public outcry over the slowness of Stage 2, the stakeholders (NCA and Telcos) met and agreed on deploying telco agents to help speed up the process. NCA even said they will also deploy agents of their own to help speed up the process.

In her submission, Nana Badu noted that the telco agents who were brought onboard to help speed up Stage 2, were the ones engaged in fraudulent SIM registration, where they use the Ghana Cards details of other people they captured to pre-register SIM cards in bulk for other interested persons.

“It is the unscrupulous telco agents who are using the Ghana Card details available to them to pre-register SIM cards in bulk like they used to do previously before we started this particular SIM re-registration,” she said.

She noted that the fraudulent SIM registration is essentially already-activated SIM cards linked to Ghana Cards without the consent of the Ghana Card owners. But the user of the SIM card is not able to go further and complete the registration at Stage 2.

This, according to her, meant that a lot of those SIM cards linked to other people’s Ghana Cards were part of the 6.1 million that were delinked and deactivated in the recent round of deactivations because the users could not go further and do Stage 2.

Nana Badu then assured the owners of the Ghana Cards so abused that their Ghana Card details have not been compromised in anyway, and that their details are still intact.

She urged all Ghanaians to keep using the newly introduced short code – *402*1# to keep checking to know how many SIM cards have been linked to their Ghana Cards so that they can report for those SIMs to be delinked and deactivated as well.

“From our monitoring we realized the fraudulent SIM registration problem is not very widespread so we believe that if Ghanaians make it an attitude to use the short code to check regularly, we can nib it in the bud,” she said.

SIM Register Audit

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the NCA, Joe Anokye had also said earlier that NCA had plans afoot to audit all the SIM Registers of the various telcos to ensure that what they finally rollover into the central SIM Register is as clean as expected.

But some industry watchers have raised questions about what exactly an audit will solve, if the system does not deal with the root cause of the fraudulent SIM registration in the first place.

They argue that the Stage 2, where “unscrupulous agents” are allowed to capture the biodata of SIM holders and take a picture of their Ghana Cards, is the single biggest avenue for “unscrupulous agents” to acquire Ghana Card details to then pre-register SIM cards in bulk.

Indeed, if the SIM registration had ended at Stage 1, it greatly limits the risk of exposing Ghana Card details and biodata to “unscrupulous agents” greatly, and thereby almost eliminates the incident of fraudulent SIM registration.

Again, there have been suggestions that the NCA should have sanctioned the *402*1# short code right from the start of SIM re-registration as a preventive measure, instead of waiting for the system to be breached before introducing the short code as a reactive measure.

Two-step Verification

Others have also strongly proposed that the NCA should enjoin the telcos to introduce a two-step verification system into the SIM registration process, to ensure that before any SIM card is linked to anyone’s Ghana Card, that person receives a real-time prompt on their phone to approve of the linking or cancel it. Until the card owner approves of any SIM linkages, it should not be done.

Indeed, all Ghana Card holders presented their primary phone numbers for the registration of the Ghana Card, so it should not be difficult to know the primary phone number linked to each Ghana Card, where the two-step verification real time message will be sent to.

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