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SOME mobile phone users in the country may find themselves answering to crimes they would not have committed because of cellphone SIM cards that could have been registered in their names without their knowledge and used for criminal activities. Registered and activated SIM cards from all the country’s mobile phone networks are being sold on the black market in Harare, Gweru and Bulawayo for as little as $5.
An unregistered line costs between 50c and $1 at registered retail outlets and dealers. Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 as read with the Post and Telecommunications Act requires all cellphone users to register their cellphone lines, as a way of arresting criminal abuse of cellphone lines.
To register a SIM card, customers are required to produce copies of their National ID or passport and complete registration forms stating their names, permanent addresses, nationality and gender.
Investigations by Sunday News have shown that some of the registered cellphone lines being sold on the black market are registered under names, randomly picked from cellphone service providers’ data bases and without the knowledge of the name bearers.
The cellphone SIM card registration scam involves employees from cellphone service providers who register the lines using clients’ information, without the knowledge of the clients, and supply the lines to vendors who go on to sell the cards on the illegal market.
Vendors who spoke to Sunday News confessed to the scam, saying the employees from cellphone service providers they connive with do not want to have the lines registered in their names as they are aware that the cards may be used for criminal activities and they would be implicated.
The vendors said they too were reluctant to have the SIM cards registered in their names for fear of the same, hence the trick to randomly pick names of unsuspecting clients from the company’s database.
Cellphone SIM cards registration regulations do not prevent individuals from registering numerous lines in their names as long as they provide the requisite personal information.
“All of these lines I sell here are registered in other people’s names, people I don’t even know. I could have the line registered in my name but what if it’s bought by a criminal and they use it to commit crimes. I will be in trouble.
“The guys we work with from inside the cellphone operators also don’t want to have the line registered in their names for the same reasons. Normally an unregistered SIM card costs $1 when you buy it from registered outlets, but because ours are registered and ready to use, we sell them at $5. We also sell them for that much because we would have bought them for $2 or $3 from our inside guys,” said a vendor who operates outside the Econet shop along Leopold Takawira Avenue in Bulawayo.
Taken from Sunday News
A Harare man, Mr Stanley Mangore, recently had a brush with the law after a NetOne line registered in his name without his knowledge, was used to send offensive and unprintable messages to one Mrs Lucy Chitaka of Beatrice, on the outskirts of the capital.
Mrs Chitaka reported the matter to police, whose investigations with the help of the service provider led to Mr Mangore, under whose name the line was registered.
Upon questioning by police, Mr Mangore professed ignorance to owning the cellphone number in question and said he had never registered the number under his name with the service provider.
Further investigations showed that the messages had originated from a Beatrice man who police are still hunting for.
Mr Mangore’s lawyer Mr Abel Chikomo of the Human Rights Forum confirmed his client’s case to Sunday News and said the case made apparent the loopholes in the SIM card registration systems of the country’s cellphone operators which he said were prone to manipulation.
“Our observations are that there are many loopholes in the SIM card registration system. My client has two NetOne lines registered under his name, one that he is using and another one that is being used by his mother. Those are the only NetOne lines he has ever registered in his life. Now this line alleged to be registered in his name raises a lot of questions. The young man was almost arrested. Imagine if it was a big crime, he would have been in bigger trouble.
“We are happy that NetOne co-operated and are investigating the matter. We feel service providers need to be more careful with their client’s data and make sure it is not abused as we suspect in this case,” said Mr Chikomo.
NetOne public relations manager Mr Rutendo Chabururuka confirmed that the service provider was aware of the case. He requested questions in writing but had not responded to the emailed questions by the time of going to press, close to a month after the questions were sent to him.
Efforts to follow up on the questions were in vain as he was not picking up his mobile phone.
Econet communications manager Mr Rangarirai Mberi said his company was not aware of abuse of the company’s system but ruled out the possibility of the company’s clients data base being abused to fraudulently register SIM cards.
“Econet strictly adheres to regulations, an obligation placed on all telecommunications providers. We are not aware of any abuse of the system. However, we constantly review our systems to ensure full compliance with the law and to make sure we retain the robust systems we have in place to protect the privacy of our valued customers.
“As a law-abiding corporate, we take any suggestion of abuse seriously. We therefore welcome any feedback from customers should they suspect any wrong-doing at all,” he said.
Post and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) were not available for comment as the authority’s public affairs manager Sibonginkosi Muteyiwa had not responded to questions emailed to her in December last year, upon her request.
Repeated attempts to get hold of her on her office land line number were unsuccessful as she was always said to be out of the office.
 

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