The Indian government has made the tampering of the IMEI number, the unique 5-digit serial number of the mobile devices illegal in an attempt to curb mobile theft. It is a punishable offense and can attract a jail term of up to three years or fine or both.
With this move, the government can not only curb mobile theft incidences but also control the issues retailed to fake IMEI numbers and make it easy to track the lost mobile phones. As per a statement by the Department of Telecom, "It shall be unlawful, if a person, except the manufacturer - intentionally removes, obliterates, changes, or alters unique Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number."
The new rule is called "the prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number, Rules, 2017". This rule bars a person from knowingly using a mobile device with an unlawfully changed or tampered IMEI number or a software that can change the unique number.
IMEI is a 15-digit unique number that is distinct to every mobile device. Whenever a person makes a call, the record will show the phone number of the caller and the corresponding IMEI number from which the call was made. The mobile number can be changed by using a different SIM but the IMEI number can be changed only by a technical person with the help of a special equipment.
The IMEI number of the device is allocated by GSMA, the global industry body and the other bodies authorized by it. Whenever a mobile phone is lost, the user has to mention the IMEI number in order to help in tracking the same. DoT started consultation to come up with strict laws regarding tampering of IMEI number in June this year as it the process makes it tough for the police and other security agencies to track the mobile devices.
Apart from this new rule that will consider the tampering of IMEI number as an offense, the DoT is also developing a new system that will block all the services on lost or stolen mobile phones even if the SIM card is removed and the IMEI number is changed.