The postpaid SIM card number of Nepal Telecom, which was taken by Vishal Dahal of Elam seven years ago, remained outside Nepal for a year, and Telecom sold it to others. That’s why he is under stress now.
He complains that because the same number is kept in the Facebook and Instagram account for security, login attempts are being made from it repeatedly.
Dahal’s relatives are also receiving unnecessary calls from the same number. Since the same number is kept in the bank account, the SMS after the transaction is also going to the same number. Now strangers have automatic access to such secret details of Dahal.
Samir Singh Kapali from Kathmandu did not get access to Facebook after opening it with his Ncell number. After not recharging for a year, he came to know that the number was sold to others. He came to know about this only after his previous attempts to use the One Time Password (OTP) to use Facebook failed.
Atulraj Pandey of Kathmandu also does not have access to the eSeva account opened using Ncell SIM. When he found out that his SIM card was used by someone else, he immediately contacted the bank and asked them not to link the account with that number, but he is still afraid that someone else will access the personal details that he has stored in Esewa.
These are examples of the risks caused by recycling a SIM card that has been inactive for a year. Thousands of users are now at risk when telecommunication service providers recycle SIM cards and sell them.
Not only that, those who buy SIM cards that have been recycled have also had to face harassment. New users also have to face unnecessary hassles with birthday wishes SMS sent by the bank in the name of the previous person, phone calls from relatives and various kinds of messages.
The policy of the regulator Nepal Telecommunication Authority has become a means of providing easy access to highly sensitive information related to personal privacy.
The negative impact of the authority’s policy that SIM cards that have not been used for six months can be deactivated and the service providers can ‘recycle’ and sell them after one year, is currently being borne by the users.
Recently, mobile numbers have been made mandatory for sensitive government IDs such as passports, citizenships, national identity cards, and citizen apps, so users say that the policy of selling them after one year could be a bigger risk.
“With such an arrangement, it will be possible for someone else to easily access important documents such as passports and identity cards,” Dahal said.
Advocate Praveen Subedi also says that information should be given before selling the SIM card as it is a matter related to personal privacy.
“If there is a system to inform the number of SIM cards that have reached the time of recycling by issuing a public notice, the problems seen now can be solved and the service provider will not be blamed for it,” he said.
The Nepal Telecommunication Authority had arranged that the service provider can deactivate SIM cards that have not been used for six months on 2nd Chait 2071.
Later, in August 2077, the provision was further amended and it was arranged that inactive SIM cards cannot be sold for one year and after that time, the service provider can sell them. Service providers say that SIM cards are sold using this arrangement of the authority.
The spokesperson of Nepal Telecom, Sobhan Adhikari, said that the SIM card has been brought back into use as per the regulations made by the regulator.
‘It is understood that after a year the user has not used the SIM card, they have switched to other options’, he said.
With regard to Nepal Telecom, more problems have been seen with postpaid SIM cards. Since the credit period of postpaid SIM is only one year, the SIM card is sold by Telecom one year after the balance becomes zero, but in case of prepaid SIM card, the credit period is up to two years.
Spokesperson of Telecom said that the regulator is ready to make any changes in the current system accordingly.
Ncell has also said that it has used the practice of selling SIM again in accordance with the regulations of the regulator. In an email conversation with Gorkhapatra, Ncell said that to solve the current problem, even if the SIM card is not used, if there is a main balance, the SIM card can be extended for a thousand days.
The regulator has a different rationale behind implementing such a system. Purushottam Khanal, chairman of the Authority, says that since SIM numbers have to be arranged for Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (MToM) communications, this arrangement has been made to manage the available numbers when the number is low.
“Issuing a new number just because a problem has been noticed is not a solution,” he said. According to him, increasing the time allowed to recycle SIM cards will not solve the problem as the six months have been turned into a year after increasing user complaints and the same problem is still being observed. He says that since SIM card recycling is an international practice, the prevailing system has also been implemented in Nepal.
He suggests that it is appropriate not to connect accounts with the number when changing the SIM card or if it is not used for a long time. He says that due to such an arrangement, at some point all the numbers will be used (clean) and such problems will gradually decrease.
Recycle millions of SIM cards
Telecom service providers have so far recycled millions of SIM cards and resold them. Because of this, some time ago the number of customers of Nepal Telecom and Ncell decreased by lakhs. Although the number of customers decreased in the statistics, it was actually less due to the fact that inactive SIM cards were not counted.
Now both the companies have strengthened their customer base by selling millions of such inactive SIM cards. According to the latest data, Telecom has sold 20 million 17 lakh 47 thousand SIM cards. Similarly, Ncell has sold 1 crore 68 lakh 31 thousand SIM cards.
This can be avoided
Since mobile number is now used for personal details, identity cards and transactions, its security is very important. The policy of allowing sale of inactive SIM cards after one year shows the possibility of misuse of mobile numbers.
In such a case, if the mobile number is used for transactions, it is a safe way to ‘unlink’ it with the bank and payment service provider. Similarly, if it is used in the government ID card, don’t forget to update the new number that you use.
Old numbers should not be used for security if they are used on social networks. Similarly, if you know that your previous number has been used by others, you should alert your relatives about calls from such numbers.
If the SIM card is not used for a long time, there is an option to extend its period by keeping a balance. Gorkhapatra
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