Even as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is working towards curbing the menace of fake IMEI numbers in the country, an incident of IMEI tampering has come to light. The Times of India reports that the Patna police have arrested six persons for changing the IMEI numbers of cell phones and SIM cards without the phone owner's permission. They then used them on stolen phones to commit crime.
An IMEI or International Mobile Equipment Identity number is a unique 15-digit code that is assigned to a handset, and is unique to GSM, WCDMA and iDEN mobile phones as well as some satellite phones. To view the IMEI number of a handset, dial *#06#. It works on most keypads. The IMEI number is flashes on the operator's network when a call is made and allows authorities to track users.
Six arrested for IMEI tampering (Image credit: Getty Images)
A special police team led by SP Jayant Kant carried out at a raid at two public booths in Patna. The team seized four illegal walkie-talkie sets. The booth owners Pankaj Kumar and Gopal Mehta were arrested. During another raid that the police carried out at a cellphone repair shop, Google Communication, they found the IMEI numbers being changed. The shop owner and his three employees were arrested, along with the equipment.
Reportedly, during the raid, the police seized four CPUs, four monitors, one laptop, three keyboards, one data cable, six walkie-talkie sets, and 125 cellphones of different brands, among other things.
As per an earlier mention, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is reportedly planning to approach the Commerce and Industry Ministry pertaining to the issue of banning the import of phones with fake IMEI numbers. Off late, instances of IMEI cloning have been on the rise. Although cloning of IMEI numbers is not commonplace yet in the case of CDMA handsets, instances of cloning in the case of GSM handsets are aplenty. Mobile handsets with cloned IMEI numbers cannot be tracked, making them a deterrent to national security.
Previous instances of terrorist attacks in the country had led the government to ban services on mobile handsets with fake IMEI numbers after November 30, 2009. However, in a test that was conducted in a telecom service area, government officials found over 18,000 handsets using the same IMEI number, much to their horror. In a report that came in the October of 2009, Indian Cellular Association (ICA) President, Pankaj Mohindroo had said that although there aren't any official statistics on the number of handsets without IMEI number, an industry guess was around 25 million.