Balasabas, Rolando: Registration of Prepaid Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) Cards and Internet USB

Introduction

During primitive age, people were doing their works using only their native talents and primitive tools. Problems and inadequacies however arose at the time as the time needed to finish certain tasks were very long and the quality and quantity of such works were not enough to serve the human needs and satisfactions. Besides, great effort must be exerted to finish or make a product.

Nowadays, with the advent of the advance technology or in this so-called information age, everything has changed. The products or outputs are now in best quality and the creation thereof are fast-paced. Anyone could do great things in split of a second by just using one’s fingers. One for instance can talk with relatives and friends within and outside the country by just typing on the key pads of cellphones or computers through the internet.

Such technology advancement, however, like a coin has two sides. The one side gives a lot of benefits to the human beings, and the other gives problems and even disaster to the same.

The negative side referred to here is the taking advantage by the unscrupulous persons and criminals of the advancement of internet and mobile phones in perpetuating their evil schemes just to satisfy their greediness and personal vindictiveness. Although, the Internet places a vast amount of information and exciting experiences at your command. With the click of the mouse, the internet allows you to buy an airline ticket, book a hotel, send flowers to a friend, or purchase your favorite stock. However, as the legitimate use of the Internet increases throughout our nation and the world, the wrongful use of the Internet to commit crime and victimize people also increases.

As to the mobile phones using pre-paid Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards, the criminal elements could collect sum of money from their victims, destroy the reputation of good men and women, thereafter the life of their innocent victims, and so on and so forth.

In the light of these, our law enforcement agencies are almost helpless in arresting the offenders on even find hard times in prosecuting them because of the lack on absence of guidelines, regulation and statute dealing the modern problems.

This paper therefore intend to enlighten our law makers and government officials to devise a system or law that would ultimately curb such social and economic problem.

Discussion

Text scams are now undeniably rampant whereby text messages are sent to cellular phones announcing that the subscriber has won in a lottery or raffle as purportedly their SIM (subscriber identity module) card number is a winning combination.

A name would usually appear in the message together with the cellular phone number and the government agency where the person is supposedly connected with. The message likewise states that the contest is approved by the Department of Trade and Industry, and even shows a DTI Memorandum Order Number and the year series thereof.

But a check with government agencies revealed that no such contest is being conducted.

Further, the National Bureau of Investigation stated that syndicate members would scam the victim into depositing a large amount of cash in a bank account. And part of their modus operandi is that once the victim has deposited the money, he or she can never get the money back or contact the person they have talked to.

Relatedly the NBI averred that one major hindrance in their investigation into text scams is the use of prepaid SIM cards, since there is no way of knowing the texter is, because prepaid numbers are not registered with any government agency or even recorder at the vendors or outlets where they bought the same.

Significantly, other cases of scams use a combination of the Internet and cellphones. The suspects usually contact their victims first through the Internet such as a ‘Friendster’ account, and eventually contact them through their cellphones using pre-paid sim cards. Eventually, the victims are told to deposit an amount of money in a bank account.

Only few violations however could be cited against suspects in text scams. Text scams, accordingly, are supposed to be included in the proposed Cyber Law but at the moment, the only applicable law would be the E-commerce Law (Republic Act No. 8792).

Thus, if money is involved whereby the victims have deposited the money that the suspects asked), the case to be filed would be just estafa under the Revised Penal code.

On the other hand, in cases of malicious text messages, charges could be libel. But if it is just a text message with no action taken, there is no violation since there is no damage to the victim. Besides, the law enforcement agencies on their part would go through long and laborious protocols and procedures to solve such crimes. At present, the NBI needed to coordinate with telecommunications companies in order to trace the suspects. Aside from telecom companies, the NBI also communicates with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which is in charge of telecom activities, and the AMLAC, which handles cases involving bank accounts that need to be traced.

In view of these, the government should make it mandatory for buying people to produce either national ID cards or passports when buying SIM cards for prepaid mobile phones in its effort to curb text scams not to mention the crime of libel, defamation, kidnapping for ransom and even terroristic bombings. With respect to the latter, it is already a worldwide concern that terrorists use cellphones to detonate bombs or the so-called Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

As practiced nowadays, prepaid phone users were not asked for their IDs when they wanted SIM cards. They simply visited the nearest convenience store to buy one and no questions asked. Thus, such easy availability of SIM cards tends to fall the same into the wrong hands. Worst is when terrorist would buy SIM cards for phones used to set off bombs.

At the very least, SIM card buyers would have to produce at least a photocopy of their national ID card for proper registration. Relatedly, the government should even warn that phone services would be cancelled if users failed to meet the SIM card registration requirement.

The government, particularly its law enforcement agencies, should propose on the ID measures so that authorities could easily trace SIM card users in the event the same will be involved in the commission of common crimes at least. Of course, that traceability must not undermine SIM card sales and customer privacy in order not to adversely affect the economy and abridge the right of the populace to enjoy their freedom.

Likewise, the government might seek cooperation from mobile phone service providers to institute registration of SIM card purchasers in a manner that they disclose their identies. So that whenever they committed the above-cited crimes they could easily be identified and brought to justice.

Another recommended measure is that the NTC as the primary agency regulating the mobile phones should expedite the drafting of a circular that require registration of SIM cards so that problems like stated above text scams, terrorism, theft, text spamming and other illegal criminal activities such as kidnap for ransom should once and for all be addressed.

Relatedly, data from NTC showed that on the average the number of text-scam complaints per month reached 743 cases, while the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response (PACER) revealed that at least 45 cases of kidnapping for ransom is reported per month on the average also using cellphones in demanding ransom from the victims.

A circular should be issued by the NTC in the absence pertinent laws treating the same problem or while the congress has not passes such laws yet. But the government should realize the urgency of the laws treating this criminal activities before major damage in the society would occur. Other Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Brunei already had already implemented the registration of SIM cards.

Of course there are already existing laws e-commerce. But with the growing popularity of on line business via the Internet, cyber crimes like hacking, data manipulation, spreading of viruses and fraudulent E-commerce transactions are becoming rampant and the existing E-commerce Law and the Rules on electronic evidence are not sufficient to address the threat of security and cybercrimes.

The Philippine national Police on its part expressed concerns that SIM cards, just like firearms or cars, should be registered, because these are all personal properties that must be registered and this could affect the overall enforcement of other laws that are related to its use.

Further, the PNP thus welcomes the idea of SIM card registration since they always come across with criminal elements, particularly members of Kidnap for Ransom (KFR) syndicates, use phone in demanding ransom from the family of their victims. In the case of terrorist activities, the PNP revealed that most of the cases of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts in the country were found to be using mobile phones as detonators.

In both cases, the PNP said investigators usually found it difficult in tracking down the perpetrators since prep-paid SIM cards are readily available in the market in a relatively cheap price and buyers identities thereof were not known.

With a law compelling the registration of all SIM cards, the PNP believed that both terrorists and criminal syndicated, and even petty crime offenders, would think twice in using their mobile phones in any criminal activities.

As such, it is itself a form of anti-criminality campaign and it would be easy for the investigators to track down owners of the SIM cards used in any commission of the crimes as it would only need court order or request to the telecommunication firm.

Meanwhile, as to the pre-paid internet law enforcement agencies in the country had uncovered criminal groups like child pornography rings that were able to set up websites selling DVDs by abusing the anonymity of pre-paid wireless Internet cards. Pre-paid Internet access through USB wireless modems are becoming increasingly popular, as use thereof does not require a contract with a provider. Authorities already arrested some members of the various rings in the previous months on violations of child prostitution and pornography laws. But such arrests would be increased if there are some sort of control to the said pre-paid interne just like the SIM cards.

Hence, as the law enforcers are helpless in arresting such criminals, children can be sexually exploited, kidnapped, molested and solicited by individuals using on line service. One reason is the anonymous nature of the Internet. Another reason is the large number of people using the Internet. Pedophiles will make a contact with victims by having children call collect so the pedophile’s telephone number will not show up on their parent’s telephone bill. Significantly, pedophiles will also purchase a prepaid sim card and give children a toll free access number enabling children to call from anywhere they choose. Pedophile often convinced children to send them a photograph and offer them money for their photograph and/or pose as professional photographers to obtain nude, graphic or sexually explicit photographs of children.

The need of Legislation

In the light of the above, there would be no reason why our lawmakers should delay in the passing of laws that would totally eradicate crimes discussed or even just minimize the same. There had been a lot of lives, properties and resources that were wasted because of the criminals’ taking advantage of such loop holes in the government control over such technology.

Undenialdly, the law enforcements-be it the PNP or the NBI- are trying their best to address the cases of such nature, but such efforts just fell short because of lack of legislative or legal support.

Thus, this problem needs hollistic approach or concerted efforts among the legislative and executive branch of the government.


Bibliography

  • Child Victims of Human Rights Abuses Tell Their Story. PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 17, 2008 AT 1:30 PM
  • By Charlie Señase Inquirer Mindanao First Posted 16:07:00 02/06/2010
  • DTI offers tips on avoiding text scams (Thursday, October 23rd, 2008)
  • Enhancing the ‘electronic’ in e-commercebly Alecks P. Pabico (Thursday, February 28th, 2008)
  • Prepaid Cards Growing But New Policies Loom by Will Hernandez, American Banker http://the bigmouthblog.com/2010/03/15/prepaid-cards-growing-but-new-policies-loom/
  • Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 5:24 PM by Marcelle Amelia http:/blogs.msdn.com/securitytipstalk/archive/2007/08/21/beware-of-stock-tips-in-e-mail-and-text-messages.aspx
  • Govt plans mandatory prepaid SIM registration Monday, 11 january 2010 00:00 BY DARWIN G. AMOJELAR SENIOR REPORTER http://www/manilatimes.net/index.php/business-comlumss/9385-govt-plans
  • IDs to be manadatory for SIM cards in Thailand Bid to end bombings triggered by mobiles Posted 19 April 2005- 01:27 PM http://www.orientexpat.com/forum/1756-ids-to-be-mandatory-for-sim-cards-inthailand
  • CBE Faculty in the column of Business Focus of Manila Bulletin published December 6, 2004; Atty. Chritopher E Cruz, chair of the commercial law department, college of business and economics, dela sale university
  • http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articled=489015 Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:45PM
  • Source: New Age ; Key words: Mobile Phone Registration, home affairs minister, SIM Registration, Identity Module cards Bangladesh Mobile registration Rules, New Law SIM register, mobile phone companies, mobile phone trade, cell phone service
  • Textually.org, all about texting, SMS and MMS; ARCHIVES FOR THE CATEGORY: CELL PHONES USED BY TERRORISTS; HTTP:// WWW/TEXTUALLY.ORG/TEXTUALLY/ARCHIVES/CAT CELL PHONES USED BY TERRORIST.HTM
  • COPYRIGHT 2009 Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning http:findrticles.com/p/news-articles/manila-bulletin/mi_7968/is_2009_july_18/pnp-backs-move-register-sim/ai_n35505508/
  • Bangladeshi-News-Views Govt.tightned Mobile Phone Registration System to Reduce Crime
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