The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said the revenue lost to call masking and SIM boxing activities in the country amounts to $3bn.
This is as telecoms operators lamented during the 85th edition of the Telecom Consumer Parliament in Lagos on Thursday that they were losing about 2.5 million minutes per day to these fraudulent activities.
Speaking on actions that had been taken by the commission to combat the menace, the Executive Vice-Chairman, NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, said the NCC had tightened the SIM registration process across all networks to reduce the availability of Subscriber Identification Module cards for SIM boxing as well as address the security issues around the availability of pre-registered SIMs.
According to him, the action was necessary as some arrests made in Lagos two weeks ago showed that the perpetrators of SIM boxing had over 100 SIM cards registered with fictitious names and used them to divert international calls.
Call masking or refilling is a practice in which international calls are terminated in Nigeria as local numbers, using illegal SIM boxes loaded with several numbers.
Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Mrs Felicia Owuegbuchulam, also called on the public to report cases experienced to the commission for investigation and necessary enforcement actions.
He explained that investigations revealed that the practice started in September 2016 when the commission reviewed and implemented the termination rate for international inbound traffic from N3.9 per minute to N24.4 per minute.
He added, “What is happening is a clear indication that some unscrupulous elements want to continue to fraudulently profit from the earlier lopsidedness in the international termination rate, which we had before the 2016 review.
“Also, the commission is in the process of choosing the best from the list of technology solutions used in other countries to block the devices, track and apprehend the culprits.”
Danbatta described call masking as a serious challenge to the telecoms industry, and a security and economic threat to the country and to consumers.
The Director, Legal and Regulatory Services, NCC, Mrs Yetunde Akinloye, pointed out that as of August this year, the commission discovered a 45 per cent reduction in call masking and 25 per cent drop in SIM boxing in July.
Speaking at the forum, a representative of MTN, Olumayowa Oloyede, stressed that virtually all operators lose between 500 minutes and 2.5 million minutes to call masking.
In order to find a lasting solution to the menace, Oloyede said the company was running trials on the technology solutions from companies that submitted their proof of concept to the NCC.
Sharing the experiences of 9mobile on the issue, a representative of the company, Mr Chidozie Arinze, said the firm had been able to detect and bar 1,000 lines suspected to be used in call masking daily.
He added that the calling line identity masking, which is often perpetrated by companies registered with the NCC, was easier to detect than SIM boxing.