There were a host of rules that were in place before a SIM card could be issued. Various checks and stringent documentation process was necessary before a SIM card was handed out and later activated.
However in this mad rush for competition rules have been thrown out of the window and one such SIM card landed in the hands of an alleged terrorist believed to be behind the Assam Massacre that claimed over 80 lives including women and children.
The pre-activated SIM scam
Last week the Bengaluru police arrested Sanju, an organizing secretary of the NFDB(S) the same group which carried out the Assam massacre last month. After the attack he slipped out of Assam and reached Bengaluru by train.
He took up a place in Electronic City and was staying there, but remained in contact with his men back in Assam. All the calls that were made by him were from a local number and this raised the pertinent question how did a terrorist on the run get a SIM card without any documentation.
The surprising part of this entire episode is that he made the first call from the local SIM at 9.30 PM on January 21. Ironic since he landed for the first time in the city only at 11.30 AM the same day. On questioning he said that he located a SIM dealer who told him that if he is in a hurry he could be given a pre-activated SIM card, which he happily purchased.
What is a pre-activated SIM card?
A pre-activated SIM card is not a service that is provided by the service provider. A company hands out a number of SIM cards to a private dealer who in turn has to sell them after collecting the required documentation. Moreover only once the documents are approved can a customer activate his card by calling the customer care.
In this case it was found that a company named Bismillah Mobile care had taken several SIM cards. Fake documents had been arranged and some of the SIM cards activated and kept ready for sale.
These SIM cards which are pre-activated are sold at a slightly higher cost. Ideally this would mean the customer has to purchase this SIM and start using it immediately without having to provide any documents or identification.
A boon for criminals
All these pre-activated SIM cards come as a boon for criminals and terrorists. Criminals can use such a SIM card and when it is tracked it never leads up to them since the documentation is in another persons name. In this existing case it was found that even the documentation provided was fake.
Normally criminals use such SIM cards briefly and then dispose it off which makes it extremely difficult for the police to track. The scenario is worse in the case of terrorists.
Terrorists use SIM cards not just to discuss their plan. There are cases where bombs have been triggered off with the use of a mobile phone which requires an active SIM.