A tweet from twitter user Ramki (@ramkid) helped us understand how identity theft occurs when people take mobile connections. Ramki expressed his annoyance when Vodafone deactivated his wife's only connection stating there were nine other connections with the same identity.
Vodafone suspended wife's only number.Horrified to learn that there are 9 other connections using her identity. @VodafoneIN, explain.Pl RT.
— Ramki (@ramkid) May 16, 2014
Inorder to understand the issue better we called up Ramki and requested him for details.
Ramki who is a Vodafone Postpaid customer received an SMS offering a new mobile number very similar to his existing number. Though he had received similar messages earlier and had chosen to ignore, this time he decided to opt for the number. As any responsible user who did not want to fall into any kind of trap from Direct Sales Agents (DSAs), he confirmed from Vodafone if they could offer the number to him. Vodafone at this point stated their helplessness about giving him the number and assured him that it was safe to get from their DSA. Happy with the information Ramki approached the DSA who visited his house and took necessary documents (pertaining to Mrs. Ramki) along with an initial payment. Ramki informed us that he was not charged a premium or extra fees.
Now for some reasons the Ramkis could not use the number for a period of two months after activation formalities. When they tried to use the number today it was found to be deactivated. On calling up Vodafone Care at 111, they were told to submit fresh documents at Vodafone Store. Ramki declined to do this as the formalities were already done and he felt nothing was wrong with the documents submitted earlier. On his next call to Vodafone Care, after much persuasion, the support agents clarified to him that there were not one or two but nine connections with the same identity. This was the reason for deactivation of the number. We had reported earlier about DoT to Put Cap on Mobile Connections Taken By An Individual to Nine.
Who is Wrong?
Naturally Vodafone and particularly their DSA seems to be the ones who have done the mistake. Vodafone on their part must exercise due diligence prior to activation of new mobile connections. DSAs in their bid to earn more commission and extra cash by helping out people who are not in a position to provide local address proofs would have resorted to unethical means. At the end it is the end consumer like Ramki who needs to suffer for no fault of theirs. The suffering would be more intense if the other mobile connections are used for illegal things which no one would want to undergo.
By all means these kind of practices would be rampant across other mobile operators and their selling agents. Just because Ramki tweeted we learnt about the issue. Mobile operators must take the responsibility to ensure that new connections are activated after due scrutiny.
In this case, we suggest Vodafone to look into the matter on priority and scrutinize the account of DSA in question. It would most likely bring up several such connections activated with same identities. In such a case cancelling the DSAs franchisee would send a clear message to others that Vodafone does not encourage malpractice. In the interest of consumers and also national security, we urge all operators to perform such checks on a routine basis.
Lastly, readers did you face or have you come across cases of identity theft by mobile service agencies. Let us know.
While Team TelecomTALK takes all necessary precautions to ensure that the facts stated in consumer experiences are right, we cannot take the responsibility for the correctness of every fact cited above. It can so happen that the affected user might hide some facts from us. We publish stories of this nature only to increase the awareness level of general telecom consumers and to draw the attention of industry regarding the issues people face.