Network of Communication Reporters (NCR) is calling on the National Communications Authority (NCA) to completely remove all telco agents from the ongoing SIM registration process to prevent any more incidents of fraudulent SIM registration.
This call comes after the NCA explained that some unscrupulous telco agents had circumvented the process on two legs leading to many incidents of fraudulent SIM registration and putting telcos at risk of being sanctioned.
Fraudulent SIM registration is a situation where all kinds of SIM cards are being linked to people’s Ghana Cards without the consent of the Ghana Cards owners.
NCR observed that there have been several reports of some individuals having as many as 18 SIM cards linked to a single Ghana Card without their consent, which is a worrying trend, particularly because the ongoing SIM was meant to correct similar ills in the existing SIM registers.
In terms of the root cause of the fraud, NCR has taken note of the NCA’s explanation as follows:
1. That when an individual links their SIM card to a Ghana Card using *404#, the National Identification Authority (NIA) issues them with a unique nine-character alphanumeric confirmation code that establishes ownership of the Ghana Card. Then when that individual goes to an agent to complete the process at Stage 2 (bio-capture), the agent then copies that code and begins to use it to link other SIM cards to that person’s Ghana Card on his blind side.
2. That telcos asked permission from NCA for their agents, who don’t have smartphones, to be allowed to use the old (legacy) system to continue to register and activate completely new SIM cards, with a proviso that once that is done, the SIM cards will then be taken through the current process for proper registration but that regime has been abused by the telcos and their agents, hence the millions of SIM cards which have not completed SIM registration.
3. That most of the fraudulently registered SIM cards are numbers in close succession of each other, which indicates that they were done by easily identifiable agents and the telcos were fully aware but kept mute until it was exposed in the news.
NCR has taken note of the NCA’s decision to therefore abolish Stage 1 of the SIM Registration on May 31, 2023, to eliminate the issuing of a unique code that agents use to register SIM cards as fraudulent. The process will be limited to the use of the App to limit and possibly eliminate all avenues for any breaches.
“Whereas we support the NCA’s decision to abolish Stage 1, we think that is not enough because the breach at Stage 1 was perpetrated by telco agents and there are agents still participating in SIM registration as of today, even though NCA cannot independently vouch for their integrity.
“Given that no security system is full-proof we strongly suggest that all telcos agents should be entirely excluded from the ongoing SIM registration to forestall any more incidents of fraudulent SIM registration,” NCR said.
According to NCR, such a decision will leave the work to only telco staff and thereby make it easier to trace any breaches to the respective staff, adding that it will also help the telcos to avoid being sanctioned for the fraudulent conduct of their agents.
Moreover, NCR noted that the agents were drafted into the SIM registration process to help customers meet deadlines, but after May 31, 2023, when the final set of bad SIMs is deactivated, the deadline issue will be eliminated so the agents will no longer be needed.
NCR has also taken note of the assurance from the NCA that the Ghana Cards used in the fraudulent SIM registrations have not been compromised because the perpetrators were unable to use those details to complete registration in the App.
As a result, a lot of the 6.1 million SIM cards recently deactivated and the 11 million to be deactivated on May 31, 2023, are made of up fraudulently registered SIM cards.
NCR is confident that post the deactivation of those SIM cards and the subsequent audit of the SIM registers of the respective telcos, Ghana will be heading towards creating a clean, secure, verifiable and robust central SIM register as required by law – Executive Instrument 63.
“We, therefore, urge all Ghanaians to keep using the short code – *402*1# – to keep checking and reporting any strange numbers to the respective telcos (not agents) to help clean the SIM registers,” the statement said. “We also expect the telcos to cooperate with the NCA in the audit of the SIM registers as we look forward to the NCA’s guidance on how to establish ownership of Ghana Cards post the elimination of Stage 1 from the process.”
Charles Benoni Okine
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