Ghana loses $40m annually through SIM Box fraud

SIM FRAUDGovernment is losing $40 million in revenue annually as a result of SIM Box Fraud, the National Communications Autho-rity (NCA) has revealed.

Mr. Henry Kanor, Director of Engineering at NCA, who revealed this, said the incidence of SIM Box Fraud was becoming a major concern for both the NCA and players in the telecommunications industry.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting organised by the Network of Communications Reporters’ (NCR) in Accra yesterday, he said the huge amount of revenue being lost through the criminal activities of perpetrators of the fraud could have been used in developing the country.

Mr. Kanor said bypassing of Approved International Gateways (SIM Boxing) started in Ghana in the late 90s when Internet Service Providers were authorised to operate.

“Since 2010, the NCA has been coordinating the efforts of industry players, the Judiciary and the law enforcement agencies to combat this illegal termination of international traffic to Ghana. This collaboration has led over the years to the arrest and prosecution of a number of illegal operators,” he said.

SIM box fraud occurs when individuals or organisations illegally terminate a voice call which is the preserve of registered licensed network operators, usually at lower cost than the approved rates. These are then used to channel national or international calls away from licensed international gateway operators and presented as local calls on unlicensed networks

Between 2010 and August 2014, a total of 13 SIM box fraud cases have been recorded, and17 suspects, both Ghanaians and foreign nationals have also been arrested. Cumulatively a total amount of $50million has been lost to both government and the telecom service providers with MTN being the biggest loser.

In the fight to eliminate the menace, he said the NCA had instituted several measures, citing the International Incoming Traffic Verification (IITV) that has an in-built fraud-detection facility that detects the local numbers terminating the international traffic and sends this list to the telcos to block them.

“There is an Anti-Fraud Task Force made of the NCA, telcos, Police CID and the AG’s Department, responsible for the apprehension, arrest and prosecution of persons or entities involved in SIM Boxing,” he said.

He said “as much as we are happy with our achievements, these fraudsters also keep modifying their techniques and technologies to evade detection. Some of them even export Ghanaian SIM cards abroad for termination.”

However, the Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications Kwaku Sakyi Addo, argued that the mandated minimum of 19 cents was the major cause in Ghana.

He said the SIM Box fraud was not a technological problem but rather pricing which needed to be addressed urgently.

He said the gap between local tariffs to foreign calls needed to be reduced so that there would not be any incentive for SIM Boxing.

He argued that in Nigeria for instance, inbound call rates was almost equal to local call rates, so there was no motivation for any fraudster to go invest in creating a complex traffic routing and termination system here and abroad only to terminate calls for peanuts or zero profit.

He said the 19 cents per minute of international call, currently being charged was attractive to the SIM Box fraudsters, adding that if government reduced it like was the case in Nigeria that could eliminate the illegal business.

By David Adadevoh

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