Internet fraud has been known in Ghana for many years but until recently when the airwaves became awash with news of the arrests of people engaged in SIM BOX fraud, much had not been heard about telecom fraud.
Until its establishment in 2010 and forays into the world of telecom fraud, many mobile phone users in the country did not understand why a foreign call would show as a local call on their phone screens.
That is SIM BOX fraud or SIM boxing, the most popular telecom fraud to gain notoriety in Ghana.
It involves the use of SIM cards referred to in Ghana as phone chips and the employment of very simple to sophisticated gadgets to divert calls from their original SIMs or callers and onto the SIMs of the fraudsters.
By so doing, the fraudsters are able to attract or get the revenue that would have otherwise accrued to the telecom companies and also to the state.
But what makes SIM boxing a tough nut to crack is the elusiveness of the perpetrators of the crime, from the simplicity and un-assumed nature of the gadgets to the diverse and the hard-to-suspect locations where they operate from.
The only reason a task force comprising companies such as Subah Infosolutions Ghana Limited, security agencies and telecom regulators are able to make inroads in apprehending some of the fraudsters is that they have gadgets that detect SIM boxing locations, which they also update from time to time as the fraudsters also upgrade their techniques.
Tom & Jerry tactics
However, as if the fraudsters and the information technology(IT) solutions companies are constantly engaged in a replay of the popular Tom and Jerry cartoon series, despite the numerous times that their nefarious activities have been found out, they continue to use other means to elude the authorities to avoid arrest.
They also use very simple and easy-to-carry electronic gadgets such as laptops which they wittingly transport through the ports as part of their personal luggage, so as not to raise any suspicions, he said.
To evade arrest, they are using all means including putting their devices “at places where it is unmanned so you will go and pick the device but you cannot pick the person,” Mr Maafo said.
He added that the unmanned places are sometimes hotel rooms that are booked for months with strict instructions to the unsuspecting hotel staff not to clean the rooms and ignorant recruits asked to just ensure the batteries are always running for very handsome remuneration.
Others also visit friends under the pretext of charging a gadget which turns out to be a SIM boxing device unknown to the house owner, but they bolt before the task force reaches them.
Impact of SIM fraud on revenue
SIM boxing does not only affect Ghana but other countries such as Uganda, Cameroun, Senegal and Congo where millions of dollars is lost annually to the state.
Sonatel in Senegal also lost not less than 10 billion francs CFA to SIM box fraudsters in 2014, while the Congolese government successfully dismantled a network of SIM box operators in 2013 that were causing the country losses of up to US$30 billion yearly, it said.
Emerging telecom fraud
Apart from SIM boxing, there are other revenue syphoning telecom fraud and leakages that have emerged.
These include OTT bypass, refiling fraud and malicious codes, mobile money leakages on automation and integrations and non-declaration of revenue.
There are also non intentional leaks such as system malfunctioning, errors, omissions or general lack of knowledge and wrong calculations. – ghanaweb