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Illegal sale of SIMs blamed for surge in prank calls in KSA
Illegal sale of SIMs blamed for harassment by people ringing from unrecognized numbers.
April 5, 2010 8:26 by Ben Flanagan
There has recently been an upsurge in people receiving prank calls from unrecognized numbers across the Kingdom.
According to mobile phone network operators, the reason behind this is the widespread sale of SIM cards that have been registered on a customer’s name and then illegally sold on to third parties.
“We receive lots of complaints on a daily basis. People report prank calls and that they are harassed by people ringing from unrecognized numbers,” said an official with the Saudi Telecom Company.
“The owners of illegal SIM cards want to stay undiscovered and so buy prepaid SIM cards that have been registered on other people’s names. This allows them to remain free and untracked,” he added. The sale of such SIM cards is widespread in Jeddah with street vendors selling them on sidewalks, and outside mobile phone shops and shopping malls for anything between SAR20 and SAR300.
“It all depends on the number, if the number is special and unique then the price will be high,” said one illegal seller.
He added that such SIM cards need to be regularly charged so they stay active.
“You don’t need an ID to buy them, it’s as easy as purchasing a bottle of water,” he said.
However, the owners of such SIMs risk having them canceled and since they are not in their names, they have little opportunity for recourse. In fact, some SIM cards are disconnected when sold and others are not even charged.
“I bought a prepaid SIM card from outside my school. The seller told me that it had SR75 charge in it. As soon as I activated it, I started receiving messages saying that my charge was being transferred and I ended up with nothing,” said one buyer.
“I immediately threw the SIM card away. I couldn’t trust it. I thought if I were to charge it, it might automatically transfer the credit to God knows whom,” she added. Buying SIM cards directly from a mobile phone company is the legal and recommended way of getting a SIM. Mobile operators are keen to ensure all SIM cards are registered and say the selling of SIM cards to third parties is illegal. They are, however, unable to stop customers from buying more than one SIM.
“We don’t see it as breaking the law when someone buys more than one SIM card. If a person wants to buy 50 SIMs, we just have to ensure they have the right ID and then it’s up to him what he does with them later. We’re not authorized to ask why he needs 50 SIM cards,” said an official at a mobile company.