Countries tighten screws on biometric SIM registration amid rise in mobile phone fraud
Nations such as Kenya, Namibia, Pakistan and Russia have been enforcing measures at different levels related to biometric SIM registration. A January 1 deadline for the exercise in Namibia has been pushed to March 31 to allow more time for compliance, while thousands of SIM cards were blocked in Russia at the close of last year for lack of proper identification information. In Kenya, a rise in mobile money fraud has been linked to SIM cards that were registered remotely. In Pakistan, officials of the Telecommunications Authority (PTA) recently launched raids which led to the seizure of SIM cards that were illegally activated.
Namibia calls for SIM registration intensification after deadline extension
As CAJ News Africa reports, citing Information and Communications Technology Minister Peya Mushelenga, the extension is meant to allow users a new registration window to comply.
About 62.5 percent of citizens have registered their SIM cards, but with the deadline extension, mobile telecoms companies have been encouraging their subscribers to link their identity and SIM cards in order to avoid a suspension.
The biometrics-optional SIM registration in Namibia has sparked concerns with civil society groups claiming it would open the door for human rights abuses, but the government has defended the move saying it is part of its effort to fight crime perpetrated by SIM-enabled mobile communications and to facilitate the way citizens gain access to digital services.
Windhoek Observer quotes Mushelenga as contending that “three months is a sufficient time frame” for people to catch up with the exercise, although there is a need for a campaign to highlight “the importance of registering our SIM cards.”
The minister has called on local authorities and other opinion leaders to be part of the campaign. He adds that more registration centers will be opened throughout the country to accelerate the process.
Russia blocks over 600k improperly registered SIM cards in 4 months
The Russian service of CNews reports that thousands of SIM cards with improper or incomplete identification information were blocked in the country in the last few months of 2023.
Per the report, about 43 million SIM cards, accounting for a bout 12.5 percent of all SIM cards issued, were found to have been incorrectly identified, with many thousands of them blocked.
The SIM registration operation, which has been in force since 2018, is overseen by Roskomnadzor, the Russian government agency supervising communication, information technology and mass media activities.
The agency says between September and December 2023, over 600,000 SIM cards with incomplete or inaccurate ID information were blocked from mobile networks.
The outlet quotes officials of some telcos as saying that they are committed to complying with the government regulation and won’t restore services on SIM cards not properly identified.
Kenya warns remotely registered SIMs could be a conduit for fraud
Kenya’s Central Bank (CBK) has cautioned that the remote registration of SIM cards is a recipe for mobile money fraud as service providers in the sector are not able to duly verify their customers.
The CBK raised the alarm in a recent circular, Business Daily reports, noting that mobile money providers such as Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya must have to tighten up their know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering requirements for remote SIM registration processes, and ensure that those doing remote onboarding are properly identified.
In the circular, Gerald Nyaoma, director of banks supervision at the CBK, regrets that remote onboarding of mobile money customers has led to a situation of “forgery of documents and identity theft.”
Telcos say they resorted to remote subscriber identification for a number of reasons including the need to cut queues at physical registration centers.
Pakistan busts illegal SIM registration franchise
Officials of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) have busted a franchise dealing in illegal SIM card activation.
As reported by Aaj News, a recent raid by the authorities in this regard led to the seizure of 13 illegally activated SIM cards and biometric devices helping them in the process.
The owner of a Sharqpur Sharif franchise was arrested in the process which had support from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cyber Crime Circles.
The government agency says illegal SIM cards are fuelling criminal activities in the country.