Telcos in Rwanda plan to tackle SIM card fraud with biometrics

2 August 2019


Telecom companies, MTN and Airtel Rwanda have revealed that by the end of the year, customers who want to register or swap their SIM cards will have to be recognised using biometric technology. This new development is due to the increase in fraudulent activities with the use of SIM cards.

In an interview with The New Times, the Senior Brand and Sponsorship Manager at MTN, Teta Mpyisi said, “In the past, people would swap and there weren’t agents who were very diligent in getting the ID cards. But we have had a very extensive exercise where we ensure that our agents always have to ask for the IDs from the people who are swapping so that they don’t just get any other person’s number.”

She further revealed that the decision to use biometrics is inspired by the need for more safety in registration and sim swaps. Also, it will ease the process as clients will not be required to use the traditional pen and paper to register since documentation will be done online.

Airtel Rwanda is also planning to introduce biometrics in SIM card registration and is awaiting the approval of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA). “Issues regarding registration and swapping are a major concern for Airtel. We work closely with law enforcement to assist in the best way possible, customers who have been victims of those crimes as well as prevent these crimes from happening in the future,” said Gisele Umugwaneza, the Regulatory Head at Airtel.

SIM card fraud is an issue the government of Rwanda has been trying to tackle for a long time. The government introduced manual SIM card registration in 2013 with hopes that it will minimise the crime but the reverse is the case as the act persists.

In 2014, a resident of Kicukiro district reported that he went to check the numbers registered in his name and found out there were more than three SIM cards in his identity whereas, he owns just one. Just recently, Ernest Nsanzineza, a resident of Rutsiro District was a victim of fraud. The criminals swapped his wife’s phone number and somehow found their way into her mobile banking application. They stole Rwf2.5 million from her bank account.

In 2017, RURA released a law on the regulation of SIM card registration. It also established a sub-committee to study the incorporation of the biometric system into telecommunications. The sub-committee is in the process of determining what systems would fit both mobile operators and customers as biometric technology is evolving and societies are finding more ways to integrate it in the everyday lives of their citizens. Moreover, with the use of a biometric SIM registration system, the government will have a sort of database of its citizens.

Source: Ventures Africa