by Ofe Ivharue
The Telecommunication space — like every other that thrives on human identity — can be riddled with identity theft and fraud. The SIM registration process, however, was set in place to make it possible for telecommunication companies and law enforcement agencies to identify SIM card owners, track criminals who use phones for fraudulent activities, manage incidents such as loss of phone through theft, and ultimately know their customers better.
Now, with several mandates in different countries, the process involves a high level of verification — matching the mobile phone number with the personal information of a subscriber including the subscriber’s photograph, name, date of birth, gender, address, details of valid identification documents, etc— all in a bid to prove that they are who they say they are. This process, though optimized can still record loopholes.
These loopholes in the registration of mobile users (especially in African countries) serve as major reasons for the lack of reliable identification document(s), and also why it is difficult for TELCOs to effectively support the government and law enforcement agencies to effectively track phone-related fraudulent activities and identity thieves.
Bob was an agent hired by a large telco to capture subscribers on a per capture incentive structure. For each capture, he got paid N50, and if he met his daily target of 1000 captures or exceeded it, he was to be paid N200 per every 5 extra capture. Bob was a hustler and so he devised a means to cheat the system by filling out fake identities with the intent to pad his daily capture number. The system was so porous that he could go as far as capturing still images from magazines or even live animals and was able to pass these pictures as profile images of fake identities. He met his cut every time and got his incentive. Years along the line, a crime is committed using one of the fake registered SIM Cards. Who is the culprit? Mr John Doe registered with the picture of Samuel L. Jackson.
Remi and Mike were both notorious swindlers in the business of conning people out of their monies by using the famous strategy of calling and pretending to be anyone important — like an account manager from a bank in need of the customer’s full bank details, a distant estranged family member nosing for private information, or even a businessman with a profitable deal that will require a small deposit. This they did without leaving bread crumbs. How? They have met with an agent like Bob and purchased a bulk of pre-registered SIM cards (sold at a padded cost of course). With these, they were able to remain anonymous as the numbers were not tied to any real identity.
A prominent man was kidnapped on his way back from his hometown. The kidnappers kept constant communication with the family over the phone, making demands and threats. They were convinced they had done it right by hiding their number so it displayed as ‘Private Number’ when they called. However, when the family involved the police and they, in turn, involved the network provider, they were able to conveniently bypass the security system to see whose identity the SIM card was tied to. One big problem though, the data was useless — The captured image was unrecognizable, the fingerprints captured were mismatched and below regulatory standard, and the text entry (full name & address) were inputted incoherently. In the end, the feat proved to be a wasted effort.
A one-handed man walked into a telco service centre to re-register his SIM card since it was said to have elapsed its registration period. Immediately, the workers all knew they were in for a long day. The registration process was hectic, long, and unfruitful as the process could not be completed without 4-4-2 (ten fingers) fingerprint capture. In the end, he was referred to the headquarters to file a complaint. The man, feeling cheated, was forced to seek the backdoor alternative to re-register his SIM.
And on and on and on.
It all comes down to the application/solution and device used to capture subscribers’ data. Here are possible features we believe a robust SIM registration platform must have to cover all the bases;
The right SIM registration platform should take identity management compliance and theft protection seriously by going beyond capturing all kinds of data, to ensuring the data — including text, fingerprint, and images — all meet regulatory standards and pass pre-set quality checks at the point of capture.
In order to prevent cases of ‘Picture on Picture’ capture by agents with dishonest intentions, SIM registration platforms should have in place a Machine Learning Model for detecting liveness of an image to ensure that every image is taken in real-time.
The importance of having a database with unique data is important for tracking blacklisted individuals. SIM registration platforms should utilize a Deduplication engine to scan through fingerprints and images in its database and flag duplicates. Also, enforce a facial match/comparison of images against the subscriber’s face in real-time to ensure uniformity. With this feature, it’s possible to know unique subscribers on the network via their digital and biometric identity.
To attain full inclusion, there should always be a fallback method to capture the biometric details of individuals with certain defects or handicap. For example, an OTP (one-time-password) can be sent after verification in cases where customers present with fingerprint issues — absent limbs, scalded fingerprints, and so on; or better still, the agent can call for an override with picture proof to show the defect.
To ensure proper checks and balances, the SIM registration platform must have an administrative portal for managing, in real-time, all operational activities, including agents and dealers in multiple locations. Devices should be tagged before deployment to aid security and device identification. With around-the-clock checks, a device can be blacklisted immediately fraudulent activities are suspected.
The benefit of SIM registration to telecommunication companies can go way beyond onboarding subscribers, and be useful to gather as many insights as possible about a subscriber right from the point of registration and exploit this data to harness market-worthy decisions.
The possibilities are endless. The only limit is finding the necessary infrastructure and application/solution that will enable the telcos deliver effectively on SIM registration based on its numerous benefits and achieve the desired end objective.
Here’s one KYC SOLUTION we can stake our unwavering trust on.
Written by Ivharue Ofe (Content Writer and Marketing Communications Executive, Seamfix)