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SIM Deactivation: 9 million SIM cards with MoMo wallets will be affected

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Sim Re Registration Ghana
Sim Re-Registration Ghana

CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Dr. Kenneth Edem Ashigbey says some nine million SIM cards, seven million of which have mobile money wallets containing over GHS200 million risk being deactivated on Thursday, June 1, 2023. 

The mass SIM deactivation is in line with a directive of the National Communications Authority (NCA) on May 1, 2023, following media reports of rampant fraudulent linking of several unregistered SIM cards to the Ghana Cards of some people without their consent.

Previously, the NCA had extended several deadlines just to give SIM owners the chance to get their SIM registered. In spite of all those extensions, some 11 million SIM cards still remained unregistered as of May 1, 2023. The reason was that some SIM owners have deliberately refused to register their SIMs, while others have genuinely not received their Ghana Cards to get their SIM registered.

Ghana Cards are issued by the National Identification Authority (NIA), which is not built to work with deadlines, and is therefore working at its own pace according to the resources available to it. The NIA has said that it has a huge backlog of Ghana Card applications to deal with and it can only issue the cards when they are ready.

Speaking on the MarketPlace on JoyNews TV, Dr. Ken Ashigbey said the NCA is aware of the several people who have applied for Ghana Cards but are yet to receive them. However, those individuals would still have to present their receipts/cheats from the NIA as evidence of their application so they can be exempted from the mass deactivation.

According to him, there are over 280,000 telco merchant SIMs, which also stand the risk of being deactivated because those agents have also not registered them yet.

The Telecoms Chamber CEO said there are other categories of people like those who travelled outside the country and have not been able to secure a Ghana Card for their SIM registration, adding that the Chamber looks forward to the NCA taking all those situations into consideration to then make a final determination in terms of how many SIMs should be exempted and how many should be deactivated.

“The telcos have done their best to drive SIM registration via constant announcement/adverts in mainstream and on social media and also via promotions that offered free data and airtime.

“We have noticed that several people are rushing to get their SIM cards registered because nine million is still very high and we hope that by tomorrow the numbers will go down considerably,” he said.

7 million MoMo Wallets

Meanwhile, with regards to the seven million mobile money wallets that stand the risk of being deactivated, Dr. Ashigbey said, on the instructions of the Bank of Ghana, the over GHS200 million in those wallets will be lodged in a dedicated account with the identity of the each wallet owner attached.

Each person would then have to follow the due process for their moneys to either be deposited in an account of their choice or they can get a new SIM card on the respective networks for the wallet to then be linked to it.

Techfocus24 has been asking each of the telcos what provisions they have in place for people to get their moneys back if their SIM cards are deactivated. They each said pretty much the same thing. It appears wallet owners would still need their Ghana Cards before they can get access to their wallets:

Here is what each telco said:

MTN

Such accounts will be treated as dormant accounts. The monies will be disassociated from the existing MSISDNs (phone numbers) and moved to a separate account with a unique electronic money ID for easy identification (person). What is expected of the customer is to make an application at any MTN retail shop for the monies we are holding in trust. They will need to present their Ghana Card, complete a mandate form, which will include the account they want the monies to be credited to. They may further go ahead and formalise the relationship with MTN/MobileMoney Limited by satisfying the proper KYC requirements – getting a SIM card, providing their Ghana Card and any other required details in order to get it registered.

Vodafone

The wallet will be disconnected from the MSISDN (phone number) and held separately. It’s funds will remain frozen and hand held with the details of the original owner. The unregistered MSISDN will then be churned per the NCA directive and made available for new subscribers. To reclaim the balance, the subscriber will need to register a new SIM with their Ghana Card (or old SIM depending on whether they can recover it) and the mobile money wallet will be reconnected with the new MSISDN so he can access his funds. Simply put, when your SIM is deactivated your funds are automatically frozen. The ONLY way to claim your money is for you to complete the registration of a new SIM card or the original one, assuming you can get the same number. All of that will require a Ghana Card.

AirtelTigo

Nothing happens to their money for a period of time. The GSM (telecom service) side gets disconnected, but the MoMo side still exists with full procedures in place for the wallet owner to  come in, fully register their number or a new number with a Ghana Card, then verify that the MoMo wallet is actually theirs, then that link is re established.

NCR

Meanwhile, Vice Dean and Spokesperson of the Network of Communication Reporters (NCR), Samuel Dowuona said the mass SIM deactivation is necessary because it will cut out mobile money fraud and other forms of digital fraud to a large extent.

“Let’s all admit to ourselves that a lot of the unregistered SIM cards also belong to fraudsters who have deliberately refused to register because they want to hide forever and keep using those SIM cards to defraud people,” he said.

He also noted that the admission by Dr. Ashigbey that some 280,000 merchant SIMs still remain unregistered is intriguing because a lot of mobile money fraud cases involve merchants and so the numbers explain why such people would keep using unregistered SIM cards for their work.

“Moreover, it has become obvious the the fraudulent SIM registration recently exposed by Techfocus24 and subsequently by other media house was perpetrated by telco agents, which is why NCR has called for the agents to be completely excluded from SIM registration after today, May 31, 2023,” he said.

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