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Ramakanta Biswas

Beware if you are using a premium or vanity mobile number! The Commissionerate Police have busted a major racket involving swapping and sale of fancy phone numbers with the arrest of two telecom employees.

The arrested accused, identified as Keshav Chandra Dhir, originally hails from Jajpur and lives in Gadakana of Bhubaneswar while Sanjat Kumar Panda is a resident of Rasulgarh.

Speaking about their modus operandi, Bhubaneswar Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Umashankar Dash said, the duo, who worked with a telecom service provider company, used to target customers having vanity phone numbers and block or deactivate their SIM cards using the secret code and user IDs.

After getting the phone numbers blocked, they reactivate the SIM cards and register them in their names using forged documents. Once the SIM cards are reactivated, they port out the numbers to another network without the knowledge of the customers and sell the numbers for a heavy amount. 

According to police, they had been selling each SIM card for prices ranging from Rs 50,000 to 1 lakh to prospective buyers.

“Usually, vanity phone numbers are sold to subscribers at a higher price. The accused duo would furnish fake documents for the SIM card connection and accessed them unauthorisedly without the knowledge of the original subscriber/s before selling them to other persons for a hefty price,” the DCP said.

In the SIM swapping scam, apart from the fancy number, sensitive information like bank accounts and email of the subscribers are also get stolen. Using that information, fraudsters can commit major crimes or financial frauds, the DCP said. 

“Telecom companies should be more careful while verifying documents for portability of SIM cards. Because, if the SIM card is fraudulently swapped, there are chances of major crimes and financial frauds,” Dash added. 

Dash said the accused will be taken on remand for further questioning into the racket. 

According to sources, a subscriber can check how many phone numbers are being used on his/her Aadhaar card ID and whether the SIM card is still registered in his/her name. The customer can visit the website of the Telecom Department tafcop.dgtelecom.gov.in and enter mobile number. An OTP will be sent to the concerned number. After the OTP validated, the website will show details of how many mobile numbers are active on the ID. 

Speaking about the scam, city-based cyber expert Lingaraj Sethi said, “SIM swapping is being done basically for criminal activities like any type of honey trapping and financial fraud. If you become alert, you can keep yourself safe from such frauds. I advise you not to click on any unknown and suspicious emails, text messages or WhatsApp links.”

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