Nigerian's death mystery uncovers SIM card racket

Many foreigners using SIM cards registered in Indian names, say police

There is a twist in the mysterious death of a purported Nigerian national, Ifeanyi Madu. The Bengaluru police who seized his phone say they have stumbled upon a SIM card racket in Karnataka whose beneficiaries were foreigners.

When police went through the call detail record (CDR) of Madu’s Tata Docomo phone number 8951******, they found that it was registered in the name of a Bengalurean named Vijay Kumar. When police contacted Kumar, he was shocked to learn that someone was using a SIM card bought in his name.

Further scanning of incoming and outgoing calls uncovered a racket: the phone numbers used by many foreigners were registered in the names of Indians without their knowledge. “Shockingly, these (Indian) people are unaware that their bona fide documents are being used for activation of SIM cards and even broadband connections,” said a senior police officer who wished not to be named.

How the racket operates

According to police sources, SIM card retailers use the photocopies of documents provided by genuine customers to apply for another number without the knowledge of the said persons. Later, the retailers activate the number by giving service providers an alternative number for verification. Once activated, these pre-active SIM cards are sold at a premium to foreign nationals like Madu or just about anyone willing to pay a few thousand rupees more. “If the new SIM card costs Rs 100, the pre-activated numbers are sold for a few thousand rupees,” the officer said.

It works well for foreigners like Madu as they need not provide personal details for obtaining SIM cards. In some cases, if the person is involved in nefarious activities, it suits them to have a phone number in somebody else’s name. Retailers, too, make a handsome profit. In some cases, if the pre-activated SIM card remains unsold for a few months, retailers apply for number portability which makes it tougher for police to trace how the SIM card was obtained.

Calls to Nigeria

While police are yet to find documents to establish the nationality of Madu, the call detail record of his phone showed that he not only made calls to Nigeria but also received calls from there.

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