Vikash Sharma

From anonymous calls to lucrative offers, cybercriminals are always on the prowl for their next target. Within seconds, the fraudsters can empty a bank account if a person is not alert enough and falls into their tricks. In most cases, cyber criminals use pre-activated SIM cards which have emerged as a major concern for the investigating agencies.

This is because these SIM cards are being subscribed on forged documents and in the names of third parties.

How Big Is The Menace?

Former Odisha Police DG, BK Sharma admitted that pre-activated SIM card racket is a huge menace in India now. Often driven by incentives to sell more SIM cards by dealers, those thrive on forged and fabricated documents.

“Criminals running extortion rackets and cyber frauds are the biggest users of such pre-activated SIM cards. Such SIM cards also have huge adverse national security implications as those are used by terrorist and insurgent groups,” said Sharma.

Sharma further said that police needs to go all-out to track, seize, and confiscate such cards, besides prosecuting the users as well as suppliers.

Is Odisha A Hub Of Pre-activated SIM Cards?

On January 24, 2024 the Keonjhar Cyber Police Station arrested four persons on the charges of running a fake SIM card racket. The accused had allegedly activated over 4,000 SIM cards in Odisha and sold them to cyber criminals in other states across India.

Police have found that 300 FIRs regarding the use of the SIM cards in cyber crimes have been reported from different parts of the country. The miscreants, posing as POS (Point of sale) agents of several telecom service providers, were activating multiple SIM cards in the names of people of Keonjhar district.

Not only Keonjhar, the racket of pre-activated SIM card also spreads to other parts of Odisha. Such rackets have been busted by police at regular intervals. However, a complete check has not been possible so far.

On June 10, 2023 the cyber Police in Cuttack had busted another pre-activated SIM card racket and arrested eight persons in this connection. Around 800 SIM cards including 300 pre-activated ones were seized. Police sources said seven of the arrested accused were staff of a private telecom company.

On March 18, 2022 the Cuttack Cyber Police had busted a racket involving preparing and supplying of pre-activated SIM cards to fraudsters. Two persons were arrested in this connection while around 250 pre-activated SIM cards of various service provider companies were seized from their possession.

On May 1 2022, the Cyber cell of Odisha Crime Branch arrested three persons, including the mastermind of a major gang that was selling pre-activated SIM cards used by fraudsters to commit cyber crimes. Around 19641 pre-activated SIM cards, Rs 14 lakh cash, 48 mobile phones, laptop, xerox copies of several photo identity cards and other documents were seized during the raid in Dhenkanal.

New SIM Card Rules

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) implemented a new SIM card rule from December 2023 to check the rising threat of cyber fraud. As per the rule, the sale of bulk SIM cards has been prohibited while registration of Point-of-Sale (PoS) franchises and police verification of SIM dealers are mandatory. As far as bulk SIM card purchase is concerned, a user can still buy up to 9 SIM cards using one ID card.