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DoT Issues New Rules For Airtel, Vodafone, Jio, BSNL To Protect Users From SIM Swap Fraud
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has formulated new rules and processes to safeguard Indian mobile phone users from "SIM Swap" fraud. The new policies will be mandatory for telecom service providers such as Vodafone, Reliance Jio, BSNL, Airtel, and others. The modified process will need active participation from mobile phone users. Let's look at the steps taken, and if they are enough to thwart scammers.
India's DoT Mandates New Rules For SMS Facility
Mobile phone users are routinely exposed to fraud. These may include scammers attempting to dupe people into revealing confidential information, asking users to click on fraudulent links, and many more.
A SIM Swap fraud is serious primarily because it does not need the participation of victims. In fact, fraudsters actively exploit the loopholes that currently exist in the telecom sector to execute crimes. India's telecom service providers now have new rules and policies intended to plug these loopholes.
DoT's new rule requires telecom providers such as Reliance Jio, BSNL, Airtel, MTNL, and Vodafone-Idea to block SMS service (both incoming and outgoing) during the SIM swap or upgrade procedure. Simply put, a telecom service provider has to disable the SMS service during the time it takes to replace or upgrade a SIM card.
How Does Blocking SMS Thwart SIM Swap Fraud?
A mobile number has become an integral and critical component for multiple services, including banking. The majority of security-related messages such as One Time Password (OTP), for financial services, are delivered over the SMS platform.
Indians rely on SMS to receive OTP for financial transactions, NetSecure Code, and other sensitive information or transactions. Even Two Factor Authentication (2FA) relies on SMS.
Scammers try to get a duplicate SIM card to intercept these messages and execute fraudulent transactions. Fraudsters contact representatives of telecom service providers, often with the pretext of lost mobile phones, and secure the SIM card of their potential victim. With a duplicate SIM card, scammers can impersonate the victim and gain access to confidential OTP and similar messages.
DoT's new rules ask telecom service providers to involve mobile phone users in the SIM swap process. The government authority has essentially added extra layers of confirmation while handling requests for SIM upgrades, reissues, or swaps.
Previously, victims would remain oblivious to the process. But moving forward, telecom companies will have to notify customers of any requests to alter SIM cards or phone numbers. This could be done via an automated IVRS (Interactive Voice Response Service) call to the subscriber.
The verification process should ensure that the request has originated from a legitimate SIM card holder. If the customer rejects the SIM card upgrade request at any point, telecom companies will have to stop the process immediately.
It is not clear how customers, who may have genuinely lost their mobile phones, will respond to an IVRS call for authentication. However, such customers often approach telecom companies personally to get a new SIM card for their existing number.