Government detects 59,180 fraudulent SIM cards in Ghana telecoms

The Ministry of Communications says since it started the fraud watch exercise in the telecoms industry, it has detected and reported a total of 59,180 fraudulent SIM Cards to the respective telecoms operators.

It said an average of 5,918 fraud lines were discovered every two hours and immediately disconnected between March and December 9, 2010.

The lines were being used for fraudulent incoming international call termination; a notorious practice  that allow fraudsters to re-route international calls through local SIM cards and make them appear on people’s mobile phones as though they are local calls.

The practice allows the fraudsters to outwit telecoms operators and regulators, and thus siphon money from international calls, which would have been for telecoms operators and the state.

The ministry had alleged earlier that it suspects that the fraudsters connived with some domestic telecoms operators and other collaborators abroad to commit the crime, but local telecoms operators have denied the allegation and condemn government monitoring and levying international calls.

A five-page statement from the ministry in response to telecoms operators’ criticism of the monitoring, it said in March 3,952 fraudulent lines were detected, April – 4,112, May – 3,252, June – 4,047 July – 7,022, August – 7,276, September 6,078, October – 12,440, November 9,034, and 1,967 has been discovered between December 1 and 9.

Three main networks, MTN, Airtel and Vodafone had most fraudulent lines, followed by Tigo than Expresso.

Airtel topped the pack by far with 30,949 fraudulent line, followed by Vodafone with 17,542 fraudulent lines, then market leader MTN follows with 10,003 fraudulent lines.

Tigo follows with a relatively small 683 fraudulent lines and then Expresso as usual trails with only three fraudulent lines which were detected only in June.

The MOC said the intents and purposes of the criticism of the call monitoring exercise is to keep the retail margin in the USA and Europe between 50 cents and $1.50 while paying 10 cents on the average to the African carriers, so that carriers in the west make more money on inbound calls than African do.

The ministry said they are happy that the Anti-Fraud Task Force of the NCA that includes representation from the telecom operators together with the security services has so far made significant arrests of illegal terminators confiscating nearly 8,000 SIM cards of Vodafone and Airtel.

“This has already reflected in the reduced fraudulent lines figures for Vodafone and Airtel in November and December respectively,” it said.

It said in addition to the detection of the fraud numbers, “we also have as evidence of the fraud activities, the recent equipment seized by the National Security, which include one Cisco router 1800 series SN: FHK1243F4BM, eight GSM Gateways, one SVC port, three FE port, one COM port and one VGA port.

The ministry noted that each of the GSM Gateways busted processes eight cards, and each card can hold 4 simcards.

The MOC said the evidence shows that it is helpful for the NCA to establish how the fraudsters have been buying the large quantities of SIM cards and scratch cards and how some of them get to be registered by the telecom operators who continue to provide services for the use of the routers.

It said it should also be possible to identify who the fraudsters buy the international traffic from so as to alert the telecom operators and prevent them from sending Ghana traffic through the unauthorized routes?

“For the first time in Ghana, the National Communications Authority is now in a position to assess the volumes of international incoming telephone traffic; this is the result of the implementation of the Gateway management exercise, and the improvement of its capacity to verify the authenticity of the Call Data Records being submitted by the operators.

By Samuel Dowuona

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