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PTA working with FIA against identity theft of passengers

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said on Monday that it is working with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to act against the identity theft of travellers who register their mobile phones at airports.

Stolen information, such as passport numbers and computerised national identity cards (CNIC) numbers that are needed to register mobile phones, are being used in the open market to unblock non-customs paid mobile phones.

The PTA told a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology last week that some 750 cases of identity theft have been sent to the FIA, which has taken action and apprehended suspects.

The PTA has claimed that it is working to improve the mobile phone registration mechanism, and the authority conceded that even after the implementation of its new mobile phone registration mechanism, non-customs paid mobile phones are being unblocked on the black market using stolen identities.

Passport, CNIC numbers used to register devices at airports stolen to unblock phones in the market

The PTA’s Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) is an indigenous solution aimed at checking the use of smuggled or counterfeit mobile phones.

This issue was highlighted by Senator Mian Mohammad Ateeq Shaikh, who presented a Rs2,000 receipt from the unblocking of a non-customs paid mobile phone. Senator Shaikh had claimed that the government lost between Rs30,000 and Rs35,000 in taxes from this one transaction.

In a statement, the PTA said that in the wake of complaints related to the theft of passengers’ travel details to register mobile devices, the authority has referred such complaints to the FIA for necessary action under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.

In response to the complaints, the PTA said, the FIA has begun to crack down on people involved in this practice.

“PTA hopes that joint efforts with the lead role of FIA will curb identity misuse by fraudsters,” the authority said in the statement.

The PTA said it was cognisant of the issue of illegal mobile device registration being carried out through the theft of passport details of passengers and IMEI cloning — fake devices being programmed with a PTA approved IMEI.

The PTA said that DIRBS is capable of tracing and blocking illegally registered mobile devices.

The authority cautioned the public to only use their own passport or CNIC number to register devices and to buy only PTA-approved devices, failing which all such mobile devices will be blocked immediately and legal action will be taken against such individuals.

The PTA has asked users to register their mobile devices through the proper means, either by sending a text message, visiting franchises or availing the online facility.

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