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16.12.2010 General News

Economic Communication Fraud

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December 16, 2010
Accra, Dec. 16, GNA - The Ministry of Communications' Fraud Watch Exercise in the telecom industry, has detected and reported a total of 59,180 fraudulent mobile phone lines to the respective telecom operators.

A five-page statement from the Ministry on Thursday said an average of 5,918 fraud lines were discovered and immediately disconnected every two hours between March and December 9, 2010.

The lines were being used for fraudulent incoming international calls termination; a notorious practice that allows fraudsters to re-route international calls through local SIM cards and make them appear on people's mobile phones as though they are local calls.

The practice allows the fraudsters to outwit telecom operators and regulators, and thus siphon money from international calls, which would have been for telecom operators and the state.

A government task force arrested some of fraudsters in June, November and also in December this month.

The Ministry had alleged earlier that it suspects that the fraudsters connived with some domestic telecom operators and other collaborators abroad to commit the crime, but local telecom operators have denied the allegation and condemn government monitoring and levying international calls.

The Ministry's statement in response to the telecom operators' criticism of the call monitoring and levying said, in March 3,952 fraudulent lines were detected, April - 4,112, May - 3,252, June - 4,047 July – 7,022, August – 7,276, September 6,078, October – 12,440, November 9,034, and 1,967 has been discovered between December 1 and 9 this year.

Three main networks, MTN, Airtel and Vodafone had most fraudulent lines, followed by Tigo then Expresso.

Airtel topped the pack by far with 30,949 fraudulent lines, representing 52.3 per cent of fraudulent lines detected; followed by Vodafone with 17,542 fraudulent lines (29.6 per cent), then market leader MTN follows with 10,003 fraudulent lines (16.9 per cent).

Tigo follows with a relatively small 683 fraudulent lines and then Expresso as usual trails with only three fraudulent lines, which were detected only in June.

The Ministry said the intents and purposes of the criticism of the call monitoring exercise was to keep the retail margin in the USA and Europe between 50 cents and $1.50 while paying 10 cents on the average to the African carriers, so that carriers in the west make more money on inbound calls than Africans do.

The Ministry said they were happy that the Anti-Fraud Task Force of the NCA that includes representation from the telecom operators together with the security services had so far made significant arrests of illegal terminators confiscating nearly 8,000 SIM cards of Vodafone and Airtel.

“This has already reflected in the reduced fraudulent lines figures for Vodafone and Airtel in November and December respectively,” it said.

It said in addition to the detection of the fraud numbers, “we also have as evidence of the fraud activities, the recent equipment seized by the National Security, which include one Cisco router 1800 series SN: FHK1243F4BM, eight GSM Gateways, one SVC port, three FE port, one COM port and one VGA port.”

The Ministry noted that each of the GSM Gateways busted processes eight cards, and each card can hold four SIM cards.

It said the evidence showed that it was helpful for the NCA to establish how the fraudsters had been buying the large quantities of SIM cards and scratch cards and how some of them got to be registered by the telecom operators, who continued to provide services, for the use of the routers.

The Ministry said it should also be possible to identify, who the fraudsters buy the international traffic from so as to alert the telecom operators and prevent them from sending Ghana traffic through the unauthorized routes?

“For the first time in Ghana, the National Communications Authority is now in a position to assess the volumes of international incoming telephone traffic; this is the result of the implementation of the Gateway management exercise, and the improvement of its capacity to verify the authenticity of the Call Data Records being submitted by the operators,” the statement said.


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