The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday disclosed that simbox or Interconnect Bypass Fraud (IBF) is one of the most prevalent fraud in the Telecom Industry today and estimated to be costing the industry about $3 billion in lost revenue.
Call masking/refiling is basically when an international call is terminated in Nigeria as a local number. The perpetrators have ulterior motive of profiting from price differential between international and local calls termination.
The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Umar Garba Danbatta who was represented by Mrs. Felicia Onwuegwuchulam, Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, at the 85th edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament held in Lagos Thursday, explained that call masking is being perpetrated with small movable devices called SIM boxes, which are electronic boxes loaded with SIM numbers.
” A SIM box has capacity to receive and transmit calls undetected. However, the challenge is that these SIM boxes are never type-approved by the Commission, a clear indication that they are being used illegally in the country”, he said.
The EVC also hinted that call masking started trending since September 2016 when the NCC reviewed and implemented the termination rate for international inbound traffic from N3.90/min to N24.40/min. “So, 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.”
Danbatta noted that as part of its zero tolerance for communication fraud and its determination to stamp out the practice in the industry, the NCC in collaboration with different stakeholders and security agencies held series of meetings which led to the suspension of six interconnect exchange licensees in February, 2018.
However, he stated that despite the regulatory actions, masking of calls has persisted as telecoms consumers continue to express outrage over call masking much as security agencies constantly put pressure on the commission to find lasting solution to the menace.
In panel discussion, the representative from Airtel, Glo, Smile and MTN argued that the issue of call masking and SIM boxing, apart from affecting the revenues of different Telecom companies, also threatens the security of Telecom consumers and the country.
They urged the regulator to collaborate with different security agencies to curb the menace of call masking and SIM boxing.
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In her response to what the Commission is doing to curb the menace, Yetunde Akinloye, Director, Legal and regulatory services, NCC, said that the Commission is creating awareness on call masking through different social platforms and outreach programmes to educate consumers and encourage them to report cases experienced call masking to the Commission for investigation and neccesary enforcement actions.