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DoT to penalise retailers heavily for sale of fake SIM cards

To curb the menace of fake SIM cards and financial fraud, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will soon come up with stricter norms for retailers. These will include financial penalties, official sources said, which will be in addition to the existing provision under which criminal proceedings can be initiated against them.

Retailers breaching the guidelines will be charged penalties of up to Rs 2 lakh per fake SIM card sold by them. The idea is that retailers issue SIM cards only after following proper KYC (know-your-customer) documentation, and agreement with telecom operators. Further, there should also be mandatory KYC of retailers with every SIM card sold.

In most financial frauds cases, it has been found that SIM card sellers are also involved in the nexus as they issue multiple cards on forged documents and improper verification, officials said. The new rules will also make it mandatory for SIM card sellers to maintain a unique ID across telecom operators on a pan-India basis while getting into an agreement to sell SIM cards.

The new rules will be notified after the proposed KYC norms, which will include complete use of digitally verified documents for issuance of SIM cards, reduction in the number of cards issued on a single ID to four from the current nine, imprisonment on misuse of SIM cards, among others.

“The KYC norms are ready and are expected to be notified soon. With the Telecom Bill also coming in, both the KYC norms and PoS (point of sale) norms for SIM cards will get a legal backing,” officials said. The draft Telecom Bill already contains provisions related to imprisonment and penalties for violation of related norms, they said.

To identify fraudulent SIM cards and block them, the Artificial Intelligence and Digital Intelligence Unit (AI & DIU) wing of DoT currently uses AI and facial recognition for telecom SIM subscriber verification (ASTR) technology.

ASTR uses subscriber images provided by them in their customer acquisition forms (CAFs) and compares the same to similar images using facial recognition technology. Simply put, a lot of SIM cards which are being provided on forged documents and in the name of a third party are used to carry out cybercrimes and the same becomes difficult to detect.

Using ASTR, the system detects the same image used by a subscriber under different names using forged documents. It also checks the address and other KYC details such as guardian’s name and date of birth.

In the last three months, the government using ASTR has blocked 835,000 SIM cards issued on fake IDs.

“Through ASTR, the telecom department has been helping the police across states to nab the fake SIM card holders,” officials said.

Last month, the government identified around 29,552 fake SIM cards using ASTR in Gujarat which were issued on forged documents. In 2022, DoT had blocked over 500,000 fake SIM cards using ASTR. Financial Express

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