Curbing SIM card swap fraud


The explanation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to the effect that it made the process of replacing lost, stolen or damaged Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards more stringent in order to protect telecommunications consumers is quite cogent.

This is more so considering the rising spate of cyber crime and the general insecurity in
the country In a statement penultimate week in Lagos, the NCC Director, Zonal
Operations, Amina Shehu, said before replacing a SIM card, consumers
are required to identify themselves properly through court affidavit, national identification card (or other valid IDs), SIM pack, among other requirements.

She said the process was reviewed and made more stringent, to ensure that telecom subscribers are well protected from being victims of SIM swap fraud. Ms Shehu said the commission has found that, at times,
a subscriber might be having issues with his or her phone number, thinking that it is a network issue.

She added that by the time the subscriber discovered what is happening, money would have been fraudulently taken out of his or herbank account. According to her, SIM swap or replacement has a lot of issues attached to it because, often times, a lot of people who are not the owners of some numbers do SIM swap at various customer centres of
the service providers,

“There have been cases of fraudulent activities done on people’s bank
accounts, as a result of SIM swap and the victims often complain to the
commission, expecting that NCC will compensate them.

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“To stop this SIM swap fraud, the commission in 2017 developed
guidelines on SIM replacement, which sets water-tight rules for telecoms
consumers to replace their SIM card when there is a need for it,” she
said.

She said that consumers are frowning at being asked to bring court affidavit, national identification card (or other valid IDs), SIM pack, among other requirements. Ms Shehu said that the regulatory body
has noted that there is likelihood by subscribers to think that network providers are putting them through stress to have their SIM replaced.

“But what telecoms consumers should know is that they must appreciate the fact that information being required from them is to establish that anybody coming for SIM swap proves that the number
requested to be swapped belongs to him/her.

“Consumers should immediately report to their respective banks to block their accounts, once they lose SIMs linked with their bank accounts,” she said. The director said the commission has other initiatives aimed at
protecting the consumers, which include the activation of the Do-NotDisturb (DND) 2442 Short Code to curb unsolicited text messages.

She said with NCC’s toll-free line 622, consumers can report complains pertaining to unresolved issues with service providers to the commission. Ms Shehu said with 622, subscribers can report quality of service, billing
issues, mobile number portability (MNP) as well as issues revolving around data descriptions and renewals.
She urged telecommunications consumers to be ambassadors of the commission by assisting to pass the information to people to be aware of such consumer-centric initiatives.

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There is no doubt that the issues concerning subscriber registration or re-registration are central to national security and thereby requires severe regulatory framework to keep it under firm control as well as ensuring a
high level of compliance.

It is evident that insecurity in the country has heightened in recent times, especially the Boko Haram insurgency in the
North-east, the banditry and rampant killings in Zamfara state in the
North-west as well as kidnappings, armed robbery, cyber crime and other
forms of criminality across the country. It is instructive that the NCC had recently accused banks of complicity
over the increasing wave of SIM swap fraud in the country. Director,
Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) at NCC, Mrs. Felicia Onwuegbuchulan,

said the regulator has not given the telcos a clean bill of health on the matter, insisting that it is curious how services actually disappear from victim’s phones giving credibility to the directive of the fraudsters for
victims to switch off their phones.

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Speaking at the inauguration of the newly elected executives of Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF), the Executive Secretary, Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbolahan Awonuga, noted that telecos should not be blamed for losing cash to fraudsters through SIM swap. He said victims should blame their banks for whatever happened to the money kept in the custody of the banks.

Similarly, the Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Adebayo Adelabu, said recently that 2.4 per cent of banking revenue was lost to fraud cases. According to Adelabu,
Nigerian banks lost a total of N159 billion to electronic fraud between 2000 and the first quarter of 2013. While quoting from the 2013 Global Fraud Report, he revealed that Africa retained its position as the region
with the largest fraud cases.

Consequently, the stringent measures adopted by the NCC, Nigeria’s communications regulatory agency, should be viewed on the backdrop of the danger posed by a loose or casual SIM card registration and reregistration process. We, however, call for the collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders, including banks, security agencies and subscribers, with the NCC to curb the wave of SIM card swap fraud in the country.



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