Tribune News Service
Law-enforcing agencies are having a tough time nabbing criminals using pre-paid SIM cards as private cellular companies have not been abiding by norms for verifying address before issuing these connections.
An assessment of police records revealed that mobile connections were issued with little verification of the identity or address proof of subscribers. Though the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has directed cellular companies to verify the address of each customer within seven days, the norm is not usually complied with as the distributors are under pressure to increase their customer base.
Sources in the trade said when a customer deposited identity proof to avail a SIM card, it was scanned several times and some details were changed to use those proofs for issuing several other connections. They said this fact could be verified if law-enforcing authorities conducted surprise raids in the offices of distributors.
It has been found that this norm of checking address proof is a “mere formality” and this laxity is proving dear to the police when such a user has to be traced. Police officials said vague addresses available with the cellular companies didn’t help in locating the criminals who used these numbers.
Crime detection has become an arduous task in Baddi where Superintendent of Police G Shiva said in several cases, migrant labourers’ involvement in heinous crimes was difficult to be proved as they used pre-paid numbers issued on someone else’s name on the basis of fake address.
He said cases had been registered against SIM card dealers for giving these away without proper address verification and on the basis of vague identity proofs. He said migrant labourers fled the area after committing crime and were not traceable on the address submitted while getting SIM cards.
Sources said a key cellular player had now started displaying limited information on its official site to its field-level officials, hiding the address and other verification details as duplication of address could be detected easily in such situations.
Easy availability of pre-paid cellular connections had also increased unsolicited calls and messages to harass women, they said. They are used for criminal activities and then discarded soon and call details of pre-paid numbers were hard to be traced, said the sources.
It has been observed that mobile phone companies had also failed to adhere to other norms such as updating subscriber details in their database and activation of the SIM only by authorised persons. These rules also require companies to verify subscribers again when they change their tariff plans but such norms are not usually followed.
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