The government of India has introduced new reforms to combat cybercrimes and financial fraud by revising the norms for bulk procurement of SIM cards and registering the final point of sale (PoS) of these cards. These reforms aim to strengthen the citizen-centric portal called Sanchar Saathi, which was launched earlier this year. Sanchar Saathi allows citizens to check registered connections, block stolen or lost mobile phones, report fraudulent connections, and verify the authenticity of devices before purchase using the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
So far, Sanchar Saathi has analyzed over 114 crore active mobile connections. Out of these, 66 lakh connections were flagged as suspicious, leading to the disconnection of 52 lakh connections due to failed re-verification. The portal has also blocked 66,000 WhatsApp accounts and frozen 8 lakh bank or wallet accounts used by fraudsters. Additionally, more than 300 FIRs have been filed against over 1,700 dealers.
The latest reform mandates all franchisees, agents, and distributors of SIM cards to be registered with the licensees or telecom network operators. The operator must conduct an “indisputable” verification of the PoS, which now requires police verification. A written agreement between the PoS and licensees is also mandatory, and existing providers have 12 months to comply with the registration requirements. Any PoS involved in illegal activities will be terminated and blacklisted for three years, along with a penalty of Rs 10 lakh.
Moreover, the new norms address the misuse of bulk SIM cards. Instead of bulk procurement, businesses can now procure a significant number of connections but must fulfill KYC requirements for all end-users. The final user of the connection must undergo the KYC procedure, including physical verification of the address. To prevent the misuse of printed Aadhaar details, demographic information must be captured by scanning the QR code. Biometric authentication methods, including thumb impressions, iris scans, and facial recognition, have also been permitted.
These reforms aim to eliminate fraudulent practices in SIM card procurement and usage, specifically targeting anti-social and anti-national elements. However, experts suggest that proper enforcement and infrastructure at the local level should be ensured. Clarification is needed regarding data handling by agents, and a balance must be struck between data acquisition and privacy. Despite previous Aadhaar-based KYC requirements, fraud issues persist, indicating that additional measures may be necessary.
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