Sim Box fraud which is a menace depriving the state and the mobile network operators of revenues has been ongoing for some time.

SIMBOX
SIMBOX
Over the period, organisations fighting the fraud have announced arrests made, SIM cards seized and millions of dollars representing the loss to the state and mobile network operators. For instance, “Ghana is believed to have lost a little over $900,000 in just five months according to communications and security experts due to the activities of SIM box operators in the country in collaboration with their foreign counterparts”. Source businesdayghaaana.com

In another article the government and the telecommunication operators are said to have lost about $50 million revenue through such illegal activities since October 2010 (2010 – 2014). Source ghanatrade.gov.gh

Others too have announced 300,000 SIM Box fraud numbers that have been detected and deactivated over a 6 months period but without placing a monetary value to it. All these initiatives are welcome and we applaud their efforts. However, of interest is the absence of information as to how the loss in monetary terms is arrived at. Although laudable, it seems that the revenue loss figures are consistently being exaggerated for headline making purposes.

For instance, in a recent SIM Box fraud bust which received a lot of publicity, $77,379,000 (Ghc301,778,100) was declared as loss to the state from the arrest of four persons allegedly participating in the illegal activity. Items retrieved from the first three suspects included 1719 SIM cards from five communications network providers. The questions that arises include the following:

What is the time frame of the loss of $77,379,000 to the state?
Did anyone check the revenues generated by the MSISDN detected in the respective 1719 SIM box numbers seized?
How does the arrest of 4 SIM Box fraudsters save the country 77 million US Dollars?

Sources in the industry who wish to remain anonymous have indicated that the $77,379,000 represents 50 percent of one of the mobile network operator’s annual revenues or another’s international traffic revenue for the year. So it begs the question as to whether the $77 million is a true representation of the bust that took place.

Assuming the $77 million is potential savings, then at 19 cents per minute which is the mandated minimum charged by government for the incoming international calls, it implies that the SIM Box ring arrested generated 405, 263, 158 million minutes. Unconfirmed reports from regulatory sources indicate that there is an average of about 52 – 53 million international incoming minutes to Ghana every month. So therefore, if this 405 million minutes is equal to all the international incoming minutes generated by the mobile network operators, it implies that these SIMs generated 7 and half months equivalent of international incoming minutes of revenue into the country.

Furthermore, it implies that these SIMs that carried calls every minute will generate about 6.75 million hours of calls which is equivalent to about 282 days or 9.4 months of continual calls.

It will be curious to know the total number of SIM cards retrieved if different from the 1719. Assuming we tabulate the 1719, that will give us 6 months of continual usage before the bust which is highly unlikely. (405,263,158 million minutes/1719 SIMs=235,755 minutes /60 minutes=3930 hours/24 hrs=164 days or 6 months).

It would also be helpful to know the total number of MSISDN involved and how many SIM Box equipment were seized in the 4 SIM Box ring arrested that generated $77 million.

SIM box fraud is a setup, in which fraudsters in Ghana connive with partners abroad to route international calls through the internet, using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and terminate those calls through a local phone number in Ghana, to make it appear as if the call is a local call.

The caller is often not aware of the activities of these cyber fraudsters which result in the loss of revenue to the state.

Source: Richard Quartey [email protected]

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