Indian officials use facial recognition to identify thousands of fraudulent SIM cards
Almost 500,000 irregularly-registered SIM cards have been blocked in the Mewat region of India’s Haryana state since January 2022, many of them identified through an artificial intelligence-powered facial recognition system, reports The Indian Express. The region has a population of a little over a million and, in the Express’s words “has gained notoriety for being a hotbed of cybercrime.”
A police officer involved in a probe that unveiled the huge number of fraudulent SIM cards said they used a facial recognition system for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification (ASTR) to identify the SIM cards.
The officer told The Indian Express that they used an artificial intelligence-based facial recognition system to identify almost five million SIM cards which were issued elsewhere in the country but were in use in 40 Mewat villages.
The official added that the move to identify and block the illegal SIMs followed the filing of 66,784 complaints by victims of cybercrimes between January and December 2022, who allegedly lost billions of rupees to cybercriminals.
“One person arranges for SIM cards using fake documents, the second gets bank accounts and payment applications linked to these SIM cards, the third uses another SIM card to call and dupe potential targets, while the fourth withdraws the money. The offenders mostly target people living far away to evade arrest,” the officer said as quoted by The Indian Express.
As a result of the investigation, the police have registered 2,165 cases, arrested 1,065 people and made recoveries or foiled suspected fraudulent transactions amounting to about of Rs 46.91 crore (almost US$6 million).
Fraudsters in Uttar Pradesh were recently arrested for cloning fingerprints to fool biometric verification to defraud people around the country.
Pakistan blocks over 4 million SIMs
Meanwhile, India’s western neighbor Pakistan says between 2020 and 2022, it blocked over 4 million illegally-registered SIM cards in a move fronted by the country’s telecommunication authority (PTA).
Some of the SIM cards were discovered following raids in various locations with collaboration from the cyber-crime section of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), reports The Daily Times.
The raids, conducted on mobile company franchises in Mingora and Lahore, saw the seizure of active and inactive SIM cards, Biometric Verification System devices and the arrest of five persons. Other electronic items like laptops were also seized.
The PTA says it started taking actions to identify and block such illegally-issued SIM cards after it noticed an abnormal practice in the sale of SIM cards by some telecommunication service providers.
Companies found wanting face heavy fines.