Tampering of Mobile Phone IMEI Number Might Now Land You in Jail


To put an end to the growing fake phone IMEI issue, the Indian Government has made it a penal offense and the guilty will be liable to pay a heavy fine and up to three years of imprisonment or both depending on the severity of the issue.

The law has been passed to check counterfeiting of 15-digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers thereby making the act a punishable offense.

The IMEI number is a unique number and is assigned to a group of mobile phone-makers — the GSM (Groupe Spéciale Mobile) Association — and related global bodies and includes information about the origin, model, and a serial number of the phone, This number makes the device distinguishable from billions of other devices.

In 2009, The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) passed an order ordering telecom companies to cancel services to mobile phones that had fake IMEI numbers. This order did not bear any good results as it was very difficult for the firms to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit IMEI numbers.

IMEI numbers tampering has become a serious issue as duplication often results in deactivation of wrong mobile phones. This has also intruded with interception and criminals and terrorists mobile phones.

The DoT’s Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring Cell found around 18,000 handsets using the same IMEI number in an IMEI-tampering investigation, recently.

Fed up with the ever-growing menace, the DoT consulted experts to frame new rules that prohibit illegal tinkering of mobile IMEI numbers in June this year.

A new law has come up, “The Prevention of Tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number, Rules, 2017,” combining Sections 7 and 25 of the Indian Telegraph Act.

The former gives the DoT the power to frame rules related to conduct of telecommunication or telegraph services and the latter allows them to handle mobile-tampering issues by making it a penal offense that entails jail term.

Anybody found guilty of mobile IMEI number counterfeiting — by physically altering the digits on a mobile or using software to add a fake number, will have to pay a hefty fine or spend up to three years in prison, or both depending on the severity of the issue.