Speaking at the 5th CEO Summit in Accra, the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia stated that the Minister for Communication and Digitalization will between June and July announce the re-registration of all SIM cards in use in Ghana. The Ghana Card is the primary document for the registration.
“I expect that the Minister for Communication and Digitalization will soon announce that from the end of June or maybe beginning of July this year everybody will have to register their sim with a national ID otherwise we lose that sim,” Vice President Bawumia said.
This, according to Bawumia is an effort to formalize the economy and curb the occurrence of MoMo and SIM Box fraud.
Mobile money, an electronic wallet system linked to a mobile phone number was first introduced in the country by MTN in 2009. The service allows mobile users to store, send, and receive money as well as pay bills using their mobile devices. Despite this ease in transacting business, many fraudsters are taking undue advantage of this system to dupe others of their hard-earned cash.
According to statistics, in April of 2019, mobile money operators recorded 388 money fraud cases in 2016 as against 278 in 2015.
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In 2019, according to the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Dr Gustav Herbert Yankson “various sums of money have been made away by the fraudsters; the majority of these cases have been reported to the police for further investigations and some have been successful as suspects have been tried and convicted of their fraudulent actions.”
Dr. Herbert Yankson further indicated that victims of MoMo fraud had lost monies ranging from ¢70 to ¢4,000.
To curb the incidence of fraud, MTN, on April 2, required all customers to present a valid ID card before any withdrawal can be made on their wallets.
SIM Box fraud
When someone receives a call from abroad and the recipient sees a local phone number appearing on the phone screen then it means that the call was routed through a SIM box.
The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM)-box is simply an electronic device that is embedded with several ports for SIM cards. The entire box can house between 100 to 1000 SIM cards. This SIM Box is being used by fraudsters to make huge financial gains.
How it works
When someone from a foreign land initiates a call, the call is carried over the internet through what is known as Voice Over Internet Protocol. Fraudsters, through the SIM box, will reroute that number causing the call to come through as a local number. The network operator whose SIM card was used to terminate the calls in Ghana only gets paid the local call rate while the fraudsters receive the international charges for the calls. Ghana has experienced several SIM Box fraudulent activities and it is estimated that the country has lost nearly $100million.
This activity does not only rob the network operators and the government of revenue but creates a serious privacy issue for the user. Hence, the re-registration of all SIM cards. But the question remains, how potent will the re-registration of SIM Cards be to fight against fraud?
SIM Card Re-registration potency
It is without a doubt that mobile money has created ease in financial transactions. However, the requirement of using an ID card before MoMo withdrawal or re-registering SIM cards with an ID card may be limited in the fight against fraud. This is because IDs are not linked properly to the homes of users. Hence, tracing a fraudulent activity may be difficult or prove impossible. Also, most fraudsters use a fake ID in transactions.
According to The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, the SIM card re-registration will prove futile in the fight against mobile money fraud.
“The solution to the challenges of fraud within the electronic money ecosystem goes beyond SIM registration,” he said.
“We hold the view that the mandatory re-registration of SIMS provides no substantial benefit in the fight against electronic money fraud, and will face practical challenges such as inbound travellers who require a SIM card without a national ID,” he further said.
Haruna Iddrisu passed the following statement for the reason for his stance.
“The number of issued cards is only a pale shadow of the eligible population. The reality is that there have been only 17 million registrations done of the Ghana Card. This represents 55% of our population. An even smaller proportion of the population has actually received their cards. It needs no saying, therefore, that there are practical difficulties associated with the card as it is facing systemic and operational difficulties in its rollout.
To create a more potent stance in the fight against fraud, the government must invest in artificial intelligence to develop the appropriate algorithms to fish out fraudulent activities.