Black market for SIM cards with ID thriving

Despite the strict rules and regulations imposed by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) to put an end to sales of illegal mobile phone SIM and prepaid refill cards, vendors have managed to find ways to continue with their illegal activities.

December 31, 2012
Black market for SIM cards with ID thriving
Black market for SIM cards with ID thriving





Faleh Al-Dubyani

Okaz/Saudi Gazette


 


JEDDAH — Despite the strict rules and regulations imposed by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) to put an end to sales of illegal mobile phone SIM and prepaid refill cards, vendors have managed to find ways to continue with their illegal activities.



Describing the sale of unregistered mobile SIM cards as harming the nation’s economy and security, CITC issued a decree over the summer that made it obligatory for mobile phone users to enter their national ID or Iqama number in order to recharge their prepaid accounts or transfer credit to other mobile phone users.



“The procedure was aimed at ending the practice of anonymous persons misusing SIM cards,” said a CITC in a statement released in July.



The move was welcomed by residents who say unregistered pre-paid SIM cards are bought by telemarketers, scammers and people who make prank phone calls. Authorities, who were previously unable to track the owner of the SIM cards, hope the new measure will prevent abuse of the Kingdom’s mobile phone services. However, in spite of the new rules, vendors are openly selling mobile phone SIM cards with valid national ID or Iqama numbers.



It is unclear whether the ID numbers sold with the SIM cards belong to expatriates and citizens who are unaware that their IDs are being illegally used or whether the CITC is monitoring telecommunications companies to make sure that SIM cards are only being sold to licensed vendors.



During a visit to Jeddah’s Palestine St. where the city’s largest mobile phone market exists, a large number of vendors could be seen sitting on sidewalks waiting for customers. Vendor Hadi Yamani said he received SIM cards along with valid ID numbers direct from his supplier whose identity he denied knowing.



“We have to sell them with ID numbers because you cannot refill a prepaid account without an ID. We tell buyers to transfer the SIM card under their names because it will be deactivated by the original owner in a month’s time.



“I’m not sure who these IDs belong to, this is an answer the supplier can answer and I have never had direct contact with him,” said Yamani while adding that he had never encountered CITC agents.



“We do great business and the money is good. I’ve never run into CITC agents but I do encounter municipality inspectors on a regular basis. I’m not afraid of them though,” he added while refusing to elaborate.



Salem Al-Harbi, another illegal SIM card vendor, sits on a street corner with a box full of SIM cards. Al-Harbi, who claimed to make SR5,000 in sales and profits of up to SR700 a day, shed some light on how the illegal cards continue to make their way into the market.



“There are two ways to get SIM cards. Either the cards are issued to citizens or legal expatriates who in turn sell the cards for a profit or people working inside telecom companies leak SIM cards using people’s names and ID numbers. Both ways are illegal and in violation of CITC rules and regulations,” he explained.



All attempts to reach the official spokesman of CITC, Sultan Al-Qahtani, for a comment failed.


December 31, 2012
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