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Telecom Major Airtel Exposes a Major SIM-Swapping Racket

A major SIM-swapping racket hijacks customers' premium numbers and commits online banking frauds.

Telecom major Airtel exposes a major SIM-swapping racket that could hijack users' premium numbers and enable the hackers to commit online banking fraud via fake Aadhaar cards.

The complaint filed by Stanely Agenlo, head of facilities, Bharti Airtel, on September 19 reads, ""It has come to Airtel's notice that the Point of Sale have (sic) involved in fraudulent SIM swap of the mobile numbers by forging Proof of Address/Proof of Identity documents of the original customers..."

18 mobile numbers were identified by Airtel in a complaint to the Cyber Crime Police, CID, Bengaluru, where SIM cards were swapped by its retail agents utilizing the 'forged' Aadhaar papers from January 1 to September 19 this year.

The sham was exposed when customers called Airtel helplines saying their numbers had ceased to working all of a sudden and their SIM cards referred to be related to certain 'fancy' numbers ending with digits like 12345, 77777, 33333 and 00000.

“It is suspected these SIM cards might have been used for committing online bank fraud. Further, an internal inquiry by Bharati Airtel disclosed that there is a deep-rooted nexus between the POS retailers and impersonators. The agents committed the above act from January 1to till date,” said Airtel's complaint.

While CID has registered a FIR under the Information Technology Act, 2008 and has already identified a couple of the accused, their sources state that: “We learnt the accused provided SIM cards to customers from other states. But we are not sure of the reason behind the offence; it could be online fraud or just a fancy number racket. But looking at the scale of the fraud, it is unlikely to be limited to fancy numbers alone.”

Police, nonetheless, states that the scam may include thousands of numbers where duplicate SIM cards were procured by adapting to forged identities and address-proof documents, a device progressively being utilized by fraudsters and hackers alike.

When approached for a comment Airtel declined to react on the progress made.

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