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India imposes new ID verification requirement for sellers of SIM cards

India imposes new ID verification requirement for sellers of SIM cards

India government officials announced Thursday that new dealers of SIM cards are now subject to biometric ID verification.

This is the latest campaign to curb rampant fraud in India that involves SIM cards. Officials want to identify everyone who has more than nine accounts, the maximum in India.

India’s central government has been struggling to reign in distribution of SIM cards obtained through forged Aadhaar and other ID documents as well as biometrics scams. Fraudulent SIM cards are often used in fake call centers, illegal betting and sex racketeering.

“It will be mandatory for new dealers of mobile SIM cards to undergo a police verification and biometric verification. Registration will also be compulsory for all point-of-sale dealers now,” says telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

Vaishnaw says that SIM dealers have been complicit when attackers bought mobile numbers in bulk and used the accounts to defraud people. In the future, those SIM dealers will be fined 1 million rupees (US$12,000), The Hindu reports.

As part of the campaign, businesses will no longer be able to buy SIM cards in bulk. Instead, corporate subscribers will need to go through a KYC check. Verification exemptions that have been granted to general government, defense and police bulk buyers will continue.

“Besides KYC of businesses, KYC of the person acquiring the SIM card will also be done,” Vaishnaw says.

At the same time, the telecom ministry has updated KYC protocols for SIM replacements, adding face biometrics authentication as an option, in addition to thumbprint and iris biometrics.

Details on procedures and penalties have yet to be published, The Hindu reports.

Vaishnaw told financial publication BQ Prime that 20 percent of sim cards sold have been misused.

In fact, the government has reported deactivating 5.2 million connections that were obtained by showing fraudulent IDs.

Facial recognition authentication has been growing as a tool for fending off SIM fraud despite privacy concerns.

And the telecom ministry this year outlined plans to use a tool called ASTR (AI and facial recognition-powered solution for telecom SIM subscriber verification) to analyze the entire Indian telecom subscriber database, amounting to 1.17 billion accounts. ASTR relies on photos obtained from telecom users’ KYC identity documents.

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